Phil Steele, one of the big names in college football previews, has released his Big XII preseason all conference teams. Who made the list? Marlon Lucky, 1st team RB, wasn't a surprise. Neither are Matt Slauson, 2nd team offensive guard, and Larry Asante, 2nd team safety. (Late correction: Dan Tichener, 2nd team punter) Then, it gets a little interesting. Nate Swift, 4th team wide receiver, is probably a surprise to some, but Swift is a nice possession receiver. Armando Murillo, 4th team cornerback, also gets a mention. Then... here comes the eye-opener, at least to me. Third team defensive end: Zach Potter. Fourth team defensive end: Barry Turner. Fourth team defensive tackle: Ndamakong Suh.
Five defensive players from one of the worst defenses in college football getting a mention for conference honors? What does that mean? Has Phil Steele gone insane? Maybe... or maybe he thinks that Bo Pelini is going to significantly improve this defense. In any event, he's definitely making a case that last season's horrible defense wasn't primarily due to a talent issue. (Especially the defensive line, which was abused most of last season.) Let's compare that to some other defenses in the Big XII: Missouri 4 players (2 1st teamers), Kansas 3 (2 1st teamers), Oklahoma 6 (4 1st teamers), Texas 9 (0 1st teamers but 4 2nd teamers).
If Steele is right...a significant improvement in the Husker defense is very likely in 2008. (What significant means is open to debate...remember, this defense was one of the worst in 2007...)
Steele also rated Nebraska's 2008 schedule the #22 toughest. That surprised me, as I thought the 2008 Husker non-conference schedule was rather weak. But it may just reflect the general dumbing-down of schedules all across college football.
What's my read on Steele's prediction? Well, I think it means that he thinks Nebraska will be better in 2008, but with this schedule, that might still only mean a couple of extra wins.