Much like the Nebraska Cornhuskers, I’m fresh off a bye week of my own when it comes to picking weekly stars. That ends today, as I look ahead to the No. 10 team’s tilt with Indiana and choose who’ll shine the brightest in Bloomington. First, we must tally my total versus the Illini.
Quarterback Tommy Armstrong – No. 4 had a solid day completing 70 percent of his passes for 220 yards and a score, but threw a nasty pick into triple coverage. He also accounted for 12 yards and a score on the ground. The interception was a very poor choice, but he did an overall good job behind a patchwork offensive line, so I’m taking the full point.
Safety Nate Gerry – I have to say I certainly expected more from Gerry. Why else take him No. 2 overall? He managed five tackles (three solo), but not much else.
Wide Receiver Brandon Reilly – Plenty of Huskers caught at least one pass against the Illini, but that’s all several snagged including Reilly. One catch for 10 yards won’t be enough for me to claim a point.
Defensive end Ross Dzuris – Like Gerry, Dzuris had a quiet day with three tackles (two solo) and a tackle for loss. Man, this was not my week.
Wide Receiver Jordan Westerkamp – Despite eventually going down with an injury that’ll keep him out for a bit, Westerkamp did turn in the best performance by a Big Red wideout with four catches for 65 yards. That’s gotta be worth a point.
Now 13.5 out of 25, I need to game plan for Indiana. This may turn into a shootout, so I must adjust my picks accordingly.
First Round Pick: Running back Terrell Newby – With Devine Ozigbo unlikely to see the field against the Hoosiers, that means Newby is going to have to be the workhorse. He’s improved his game quite a bit as the season’s gone on. He proved that he can bleed time off the clock against Illinois on an 18-play 75-yard drive that took 10:42 off the clock between the third and fourth quarters.
Second Round Pick: Quarterback Tommy Armstrong – We’ve come to a point in the season where running TA4 is a true risk/reward decision. If he goes down, bad things are in store for the Huskers as a whole, but Nebraska can’t play scared. I think Danny Langsdorf will draw up solid protection, knowing that Armstrong’s the best option to take Nebraska as far as it’ll go.
Third Round Pick: Wide Receiver Brandon Reilly – Much like the selection of Newby, I’m picking Reilly since Westerkamp will be hanging out on the sidelines with tight end Cethan Carter, two major targets in the passing game. He’s the healthiest starting wide receiver at this point and I like his potential to be on the end of an Armstrong pass for big yardage. He’s also dangerous on sweeps.
Fourth Round Pick: Safety Nate Gerry – Coming off a bye, I expect tackling to improve in a big way, but I also feel Gerry’s due for at least one pick. The Hoosiers donated possessions to Wake Forest, throwing an obscene five interceptions. Nebraska’s defense had a similar day versus Wyoming in the second game of the season. Perhaps it’s time to take that show on the road.
Fifth Round Pick: Running back Mikale Wilbon – We go back to the lack of Ozigbo. Wilbon isn’t the only other back you should expect to see (we’ll get to that in a moment.) No. 21 is a very talented back who is extremely dangerous in Nebraska’s screen game, a growing presence in the offense. If he’s able to get some room, he has the speed to gobble up yardage in a hurry. I was somewhat tentative about picking him earlier in the season, but with Zig out, I’m pulling the trigger.
Tight end Trey Foster – Carter being out opens the door for Sam Cotton and Foster to pick up the slack at tight end. They simply must be taken into account considering how much Nebraska leans on the position for run support. Foster snagged his first catch of the season against Illinois — for a touchdown no less.
Running back Tre Bryant – The third head in what will become a hydra-style running back stable, Bryant is a true freshman with some legitimate gifts. That he’s been granted the role of starting kick returner should speak to that. Much like Wilbon, “he’s got quicks.” We could see Newby wear down the Hoosier defensive line this week before letting speedsters try their luck.
Wide receiver De’Mornay Pierson-El – DPE has had moments where he’s looked like his old self on returns. He ran back a punt for 45 yards versus Oregon and one for 27 against Illinois. He’s also starting to look comfortable as part of the offense. Finally cashing in on a return for a score would do a lot to improve the Huskers’ fortunes this week.