We caught up with Nebraska beat writer Brian Rosenthal from the Lincoln Journal Star and asked him some questions about the much-anticipated BYU Football season opener this weekend with Nebraska.
Where can Nebraska hurt BYU the most?
When Tommy Armstrong is good in the passing game, he’s good deep. I knows BYU’s secondary has been suspect at times, and I could see receiver Jordan Westerkamp or the team’s fastest player, Brandon Reilly, getting loose deep for a couple of big plays. Also, Nebraska’s special teams units are superb. Punter Sam Foltz has been booming kicks high and far and can change field position in a hurry. Coverage units have been sound. And even though the electrifying DeMornay Pierson-El is hurt and won’t play, Nebraska still has some weapons in the return game.
What is the biggest weakness for the Cornhuskers that BYU could expose?
The jury is still out on Nebraska’s run defense. It was atrocious at times last season (See: Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin). This is an entirely different defensive scheme, though, that will allow one of Nebraska’s strengths, its interior defensive line, to make plays rather than simply take on blockers. But the linebackers are still a question mark. Also, Nebraska is susceptible to giving up big plays on defense, something Riley has voiced concern over a time or two in fall camp.
Have Nebraska players truly bought into Mike Riley’s new scheme yet?
I’d say they have, especially so on defense. Ever since spring football, players have been raving about how much simpler this system is. Safety Nate Gerry, with no disrespect to his new coaches, even used the word “high-schoolish” to describe the system. Of course, that’s an exaggeration, but Gerry’s point was how much easier (see ball, get ball) this defense is under coordinator Mike Riley. Offensively, it’s been a bigger adjustment, particularly for quarterback Tommy Armstrong. Players now huddle. Receiving routes are different. That’s not to say players haven’t bought in, but it’s been more of a transition.
Who is an under the radar player that BYU should be watching out for?
Stanley Morgan. He’s a true freshman receiver that would’ve played anyway, but has been vaulted up the charts because of so many injuries to receivers throughout fall camp. He doesn’t look – or play – like a true freshman. He can make catches in traffic, gets yards after contact and make plays deep. Of course, it’s his first college game, so no one knows how he’ll respond under the lights. But he’s a guy to watch.
What are Nebraska fans’ thoughts on Taysom Hill?
They genuinely fear him, I’d say. That’s partly because of Hill’s ability, and partly because Nebraska fans have nightmares of past Blackshirt defenses seeming never able to slow a high-quality (and sometimes even mid-quality) quarterback who’s capable of making big plays in the running game. This includes everyone from little-known Marv Seiler of Iowa State to Heisman Trophy finalists like Vince Young. Say the words “mobile quarterback” to Nebraska fans, and they stock up on Rolaids.