UCLA-Nebraska Preview: Cornhusker's Coaching & Special Teams

Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE

Although we're more than a week away from the game, we take an early look at Nebraska's coaching staff and special teams units.

After demolishing Nevada in the second half en route to a 58-20 victory, UCLA travels to Lincoln next week to face a Nebraska team seeking revenge after losing to UCLA last year. Nebraska, of course, is one of the most successful programs in college football history and are closing in on 850 wins for the program. Nebraska may have struggled some with Wyoming to start the season, but UCLA is going to have to play a complete game in order to beat a good Nebraska team on the road.

Last year's game was a 36-30 thriller with UCLA coming up on top. The Bruins gashed the Huskers for 653 yards of offense, with 344 coming on the ground and 309 through the air. Nebraska's offensive production was not bad, with 439 total yards and 260 rushing yards, but much of that yardage came in the first half as UCLA made halftime adjustments that held Nebraska in check in the second half.

Coaching Staff

Bo Pelini is in his 6th year as Nebraska's head coach. He posts a career record at Nebraska of 50-20. Pelini's resume lists some impressive company. He coached defensive backs with the San Francisco 49ers, where he won a Super Bowl ring in 1995, linebackers with the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers, and coordinated defenses at Nebraska, Oklahoma, and LSU before becoming Nebraska's head coach.

There are whispers that Bo Pelini is on the hotseat. Most programs would welcome consistent 10-win seasons, but most programs do not have the rich history of Nebraska. It was not that long ago that Nebraska was college football's elite program. Ten win seasons with a trip to the Big 10 Championship game and the Capital One Bowl will not cut it in Lincoln, especially when Nebraska's defense surrendered a combined 115 points in those two games. The Nebraska fanbase demands titles, and Pelini has yet to deliver. That said, this year's schedule lines up well for the Huskers. Nebraska misses Ohio St. in the regular season and the only real road challenge is at Michigan. They should be in the Big 10 championship game again, and if they can get rolling, they could make noise on a national level this year.

Offensively, Tim Beck enters his third season as offensive coordinator and sixth season at Nebraska. They run a ground heavy spread scheme that spotlights Taylor Martinez's strength in running the ball. The offense can create explosive plays through the air when Nebraska is rolling, but it does sputter if defenses can force the Huskers into obvious passing situations.

Nebraska replaced Carl Pelini with John Papuchis last year, and the team performed well except for a few disastrous performances. Nebraska gave up 653 yards to UCLA, 640 to Wisconsin, and 589 yards to Georgia. In other games, Nebraska allowed just 288 ypg.

Special Teams

Nebraska lost Brett Maher, who they used for both punting and placekicking duties last year. His replacements will be Sr. Pat Smith handling the placekicking and Fr. Sam Foltz at punter. Smith made 4/5 of his extra points against Wyoming and hit his only field goal attempt. Foltz punted 5 times and averaged 45 yards per punt.

In the return game, burner Ameer Abdullah was the primary kickoff and punt return man last year, but now that he's the featured back, Jr. Kenny Bell is handling the kick return duties. Bell is a good athlete and had two returns for 72 yards against Wyoming. Nebraska did not return any punts, but Jr. Jamal Turner will handle punt return duties.

That concludes Part 1 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers preview. Fire away with any additional thoughts and comments.

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