Nebraska’s offseason has begun and the Big Red faithful are already counting down the days until the 2019 football season gets underway. (For those not counting yet, it’s 275 days.)
We thought it would be fun to put this 4-8 season in the rearview mirror and take a look ahead. Cornhuskers fans should look forward to an offseason of much greater stability than this time last year. For one thing, the program has its coaching staff in place.
So, let’s make 5 way too early predictions for Nebraska’s 2019 season:
They won’t lose to a Sun Belt team this time
Perhaps the low point of Nebraska’s 2018 season was in its second game when the Troy Trojans came into Memorial Stadium and defeated the Cornhuskers 24-19. Big Red opens its 2019 campaign on Aug. 31 against another member of the Sun Belt Conference, South Alabama. The SBC is usually the weakest conference in FBS. To be (somewhat) fair, Troy has 30 wins over the past three seasons with its 2018 bowl pending. South Alabama, with just seven seasons at the FBS level, has nowhere near that pedigree. The Jaguars will be an easy opening win for the Cornhuskers.
4K for Martinez
This season, Adrian Martinez became the first freshman in Nebraska history to account for 3,000 total yards of offense. And that was with a spotty offensive line and an 11-game slate (he missed the Troy game with an injury). It’s pretty east to imagine Martinez reaching the 4,000 mark in 2019. In fact it’s easy to imagine him doing so by reaching the elusive 3,000/1,000 club — 3,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards.
Washington will be pushed…
Another freshman, Maurice Washington, showed flashes of his potential in 2018, rushing for 455 yards and three touchdowns on 77 carries for a 5.9 average. Nebraska’s backfield was pretty thin this season, especially when Greg Bell announced his transfer. Apart from starter Devine Ozigbo, Washington and Bell, the Cornhuskers gave the rest of the running backs on their roster a combined 16 carries for the season. That’s partly because Martinez runs a fair bit. Still, you can still bet that head coach Scott Frost and his staff will be looking to sign some running backs during recruiting this winter.
…which will make him more productive
Washington will face some competition in training camp (if he doesn’t, the Cornhuskers will have failed in recruiting) but he still has to be considered the favorite to get the bulk of the carries in the 2019 season. He was rated the third-best signing of Nebraska’s 2018 recruiting class (Martinez was No. 1) and Washington showed good burst numerous times this season. He could also become a more dangerous receiving option out of the backfield next season. Washington had seven receptions for 102 yards, both season highs, in the finale against Iowa.
Back to bowling
For the first time in 50 years, Nebraska has gone back-to-back seasons without playing in a bowl game. But the Cornhuskers showed signs toward the end of the season that they are pointed toward success for 2019 and beyond. Frost, 43, is a young coach, Martinez and Washington will be sophomores and a good chunk of the team is young. The staff will have to put a priority on replenishing the roster’s depth and replacing some departing seniors at crucial positions — their recruiting priorities are another topic for another story later. But the second half of the season, in which Big Red went 4-2, offers encouragement. The Cornhuskers are unlikely to contend for a Big Ten West Division title yet but they will get back to at least a .500 season and a postseason opportunity in 2019.