It's almost a tale of two cities for the Huskers, as it seems that it may be the best of times at I-back and the worst of times at cornerback. Except that in both cases, the hype machine is exaggerating the situation at both positions.
At I-back, every Husker fan is wondering about the battle royale between Cody Glenn, Marlon Lucky, Brandon Jackson, and Kenny Wilson. One day, Lucky gets the headlines, another day it's Wilson, and then the next day it's Jackson. The battle was so fierce that Leon Jackson saw the handwriting on the wall and decided to transfer. But who will be the starting I-back? Hard to say because I think the people who will make that decision (Bill Callahan, Jay Norvell, and Randy Jordan) haven't decided yet. That still doesn't mean that fans aren't already making their bold predictions. Here's mine: We probably won't have a clear-cut #1 back until after USC, and likely not until October. Here's how I'm handicapping the field:
Marlon Lucky: The recruitnik favorite got a vote of confidence from Jon Gruden in the spring. I get the feeling that Lucky could be a gamebreaker, ala Reggie Bush, in the open field. Problem is that in 2005, Lucky missed most of the holes. Will the game slow down for him in 2006?
Cody Glenn: The polar opposite of Lucky. Unheralded by recruiting experts, he became a fan favorite for his tough inside running in 2005 and outshone the field in spring football. We don't hear any buzz about him from fall camp, yet he's still mentioned as being part of the mix. I get the feeling that Glenn might be the most consistent this fall.
Brandon Jackson: A battering ram who got the tough yards in 2004, he's been hampered by injuries since. His running style reminds me a lot of Correll Buckhalter who has enjoyed more success running the West Coast Offense in Philadelphia than at Nebraska.
Kenny Wilson: People who've seen this kid out of his uniform mistake him for an NFL player. He might have the best combination of speed, power, and game-breaking ability, but he will be hampered by his lack of familiarity with the offense. (Remember how Jackson, Glenn, and Lucky were used in their freshman seasons?)
For much of September, I think all the backs will play, and the guy who plays first will probably be determined by Callahan's script rather than as an indication of who's #1 on the list. I do think that by USC, we'll start to see a back starting to take command, though most will play.
For all the talk of big runs, nobody is talking about their blocking ability. That probably will determine playing time more than anything. Job #1 will still be to pick up blitzes and protect Zac Taylor.
At cornerback, injuries to Zackary Bowman and now Andre Jones have forced the secondary to scramble. Converted receivers Isaiah Fluellen and Tyrell Spain are now alternating opposite Cortney Grixby, who's playing with a cast on his thumb. You don't think this has Dwayne Jarrett drooling out in SoCal? I expect Jones to be brought back slowly to ensure his availability for the Trojans and to get more experience to the converts.
Again, there are players back there, so fans should be concerned rather than in a panic. It will be more imperitive for the front 7 to get pressure on the quarterback rather than depend on the coverage. It will be interesting to see who steps up in the fall as the secondary is going to be full of new faces.