Nebraska parted ways with a coach who won 66 games in seven seasons to clear the way for Mike Riley, who appears to be a complete 180 personality-wise from his predecessor. Riley brings with him a lengthy resume and an experienced staff anxious to get Nebraska back to the top of the college football world.
Riley's job won't be easy, as he inherits a roster full of guys he didn't recruit who are accustomed to playing a style of football he doesn't coach. Nebraska fans are restless, as their historic program has failed to bring home a conference title in over 15 years. Playing in an ever-improving Big Ten that is home to the defending national champion as well as some of the most high-profile coaches in the sport certainly doesn't make things any easier. Be that as it may, the Husker faithful historically don't like any excuses for mediocrity. They demand success, and Riley may have to get creative to deliver.
Nebraska's Five Biggest Fall Camp Storylines
1. Riley's Resiliency
Since being introduced as Nebraska’s new head coach, Riley has been a cool customer every step of the way. He flat out wins every press conference and interview. He says and does all the right things. He has won the fan base and has everyone on his side. That's said, he hasn't coached a game in Lincoln yet. He has never had a job where the fans, quite frankly, care so much about the results on the field. Bo Pelini and his teams were often criticized for losing composure and folding when the going got tough. How will Riley, his staff and his version of the Huskers react in similar circumstances? How much of a leash will Husker Nation give him? How will Riley respond to and address a panicked fan base if things get off to a rocky start? We could know the answers to all of those questions before the end of September.
2. Can Tommy Armstrong Run Mike Riley's Offense?
Armstrong is a throwback college quarterback — a dual-threat guy who relies as much on will as he does skill. Historically, Riley offenses rely on reads, timing and accurate throws. The coaches are going to do what they can to cater the attack to Armstrong's strengths. There may come a time, however, where he'll be asked to go outside of his comfort zone in order to win a big or even close game. Whether or not Armstrong is able to do that could be what makes or breaks Nebraska's season.
3. Depth on Defense
Nate Gerry and Maliek Collins are as good as anyone in the conference at their respective positions. However, depth and experience are concerns at all three layers of the defense. Offseason transfers have hit the linebacker and secondary corps pretty hard, and there are a couple of players who may not be fully recovered from past injuries. As a result, freshman linebacker Dedrick Young and sophomore defensive back Joshua Kalu may need to step up into more prominent roles than initially anticipated.
4. Concerns With Talent At Running Back
Terrell Newby sits at the top of a crowded depth chart for now. Sophomore Adam Taylor and senior Imani Cross figure to get a few touches as well. Then you have the recent signing of Jordan Stevenson, a 4-star talent who many think could crack the starting lineup. In a recent interview with a local radio show in Omaha, Stevenson mentioned that while being recruited by Riley, the new Husker coach said the position group was "iffy." If that is indeed the case, we could see a revolving door in terms of who is the primary ball carrier from game to game until someone separates from the pack.
5. De'Mornay Pierson-El's Role
The popular belief right now is that Pierson-El is going to be a huge factor in Nebraska's passing game in 2015. He showed flashes of brilliance in limited offensive touches a season ago, but it remains to be seen how he'll fare as an every-down offensive player in addition to his role on special teams. He has the talent to be one of the most dangerous players in the country. If he can get comfortable in the offense early and establish himself as a reliable go-to guy, it will make Riley's life much easier and make Nebraska's offense one to be feared throughout the Big Ten.