September 10 2016: Huskers I-back Terrell Newby (34) fights for yardage against Wyoming cornerback Antonio Hull (21) during the 52-17 Nebraska victory over the Wyoming Cowboys at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb.  (Photo by Josh Wolfe/Icon Sportswire)
Nebraska Cornhuskers

Big Red Rising: the Huskers’ best through the bye week

Josh Wolfe/Icon Sportswire

Whether you celebrate Nebraska’s 5-0 record and No. 12 ranking in the polls or pooh-pooh it, one thing can’t be denied: how well some members of the team have performed. In a few cases, it goes beyond the numbers. Through five weeks of play, these five standout Huskers have a high ceiling for the remainder of the season:

  • Quarterback Tommy Armstrong – It’s no secret that this team goes as far as Armstrong takes it, and that was a very scary thought in the preseason. Questions abounded. Could he fix his mechanics and footwork? Would he check down and throw the ball away when necessary? Would the YOLOBombs continue? How many interceptions would he be good for?

Enough of that talk, for now at least. TA4 has shown that Mike Riley and Danny Langsdorf have implemented a system he can excel in — he certainly has.

In 2015, Armstrong completed 54 percent of his passes for 1,371 yards through five games and threw 11 touchdowns to six interceptions. He totaled only 156 yards rushing, scoring a single touchdown on the ground.

Compare that to this season: He’s completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,151 yards while throwing for nine touchdowns and only two interceptions. He’s also rushed for 293 yards and five touchdowns.

  • Running back Terrell Newby – Devine Ozigbo was expected to continue his development and he has, but Newby has exceeded expectations. He has stopped dancing in the backfield and has become a workhorse for Nebraska.

Just last week against Illinois, while Ozigbo was in the locker room and Mikale Wilbon was hurting, Newby helped the Huskers grind out an 18-play, 75-yard drive that consumed 10:42 in both the third and fourth quarters.

Despite splitting carries with up to three other backs per game, he leads the team in rushing yardage with 327, scoring five touchdowns and averaging 5.5 yards on 59 attempts.

  • Wide receiver Stanley Morgan – Yes, Alonzo Moore and Jordan Westerkamp have fought through injury to accumulate 528 yards and six touchdowns for the Big Red. However, I have to give Morgan the spotlight. His run blocking is the very best on the team, paving the way for Newby and Ozigbo.

He has yet to record a touchdown, but he averages just under 10.5 yards per catch. Newby and Ozigbo will continue to produce. Morgan will gladly punch defensive backs in the mouth to make room.

  • Defensive end Ross Dzuris – While I appreciate fine facial hair, I didn’t expect the type of output that the handsomely handle-barred Dzuris has produced on the field. He’s the 2016 Jack Gangwish. Nobody was looking for much from this walk-on, but he has consistently graded out as one of defensive line coach John Parrella’s top two linemen.

Dzuris currently has 19 tackles (10 solo) while leading the team in tackles for loss (6.5) and sacks (3.5). Keep on with the Mustachioed Mayhem!

  • Safety Nate Gerry – To the shock of no one, Gerry’s numbers are fantastic despite his having to sit out the season opener due to a violation of team rules. He trails only fellow safety Kieron Williams in tackles with 29 (16 solo), is second in tackles for loss behind Dzuris with 4.5, and has two interceptions to his name.

Gerry was a known commodity coming into 2016. The question moving forward is how he will look opposite safety Kieron Williams, who is having an excellent year of his own.

Did I miss someone? Leave your picks in the comment section below.

Be sure to like Brandon’s Facebook page and follow him on Twitter (@eightlaces).

Big Red Rising: the Huskers’ best through the bye week
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