Heading into 2019, many felt the sky was the limit for Nebraska. Maybe a Big Ten West crown, perhaps even sitting atop the conference. While the former may yet happen, it feels increasingly unlikely as time goes by. Three games, more questions.
Now is usually when lingering issues can be focused on and meticulously picked apart. The Huskers weren't blessed with football’s usual timetable, but there are positives to balance the Big Red’s negatives.
Scott Frost doesn't have much time to get the most glaring problems fixed, though. Ohio State is coming and they'll magnify them for the world to see. In the meantime, here's what we know about Frost's charges as they sit 2-1 with their Big Ten opener at Illinois set for Saturday:
Who is Elite?
Quarterbacks: Note this doesn't read Adrian Martinez, "2AM" or any other singular references to the well-known head of Nebraska's offensive serpent. Lost in the Huskers' oddly-started, yet never-in-doubt pasting of Northern Illinois was one Noah Vedral.
Say what you will about the circumstances. It was garbage time, No. 16 played against the Huskies' backups, etc. One thing that stood out most about Vedral was his decisiveness. He wouldn't be as effective if Martinez went down. But even with just a glimpse, he appears to know the playbook and how to execute it.
Carlos and Khalil Davis: It's easy to give Erik Chinander's entire defensive front a heaping helping of praise. The Davis brothers have been leading the charge, though.
Carlos had a career-best 1.5 sacks versus Northern Illinois and leads the team. Khalil is the Blackshirts' leader in tackles for a loss.
Running backs: There was a point between Colorado and Northern Illinois where Dedrick Mills looked to be another junior college product that may not pan out. Then he uncorked a 61-yard run against the Huskies that would lead to a 118-yard day.
The Huskies simply don't allow 100-yard efforts. Mills' was the first on their stat sheet since Central Michigan's Jonathan Ward shredded the NIU defense for 159 yards in a 31-24 win. That was in late November 2017. The Huskies faced Iowa, Utah (twice), Florida State, and BYU between that game and Mills' breakout performance.
You know Maurice Washington's story by now. Insanely talented, quicker than a hiccup (to borrow a phrase) with a dash of former high school offensive coordinator Deion Sanders (yes that Deion Sanders). No one's suggesting No. 28 ends up in Canton, but his best playing days are ahead of him. That's a scary prospect for defenders.
Cornerbacks: To the surprise of nobody, Lamar Jackson and Dicaprio Bootle are the stars of the secondary. Further, Jackson's play is aggressive, but he still hasn't reached his ceiling. Bootle is not unlike Chik-fil-A. You know what you're going to get and that's usually a quality product.
Cameron Jurgens: After an understandably jittery first game, Jurgens has settled in. Concerns regarding snap efficiency are slowing fading. He's held his own so far, but now it's time to see what he can do versus the Big Ten. Strap in.
Collin Miller: Not the most athletically gifted linebacker on the roster, but the most efficient through three games. Every other player across the corps has shown themselves to be a liability in some way during at least one contest. There’s been massive over-pursuit, poor tackling and busted coverage. There have been ups to go with the downs, but Miller largely perseveres through it all.
Offensive line: Aside from Jurgens, there's not much to write about. Well, there is, but little is positive. The interior has been a mess. The unit as a whole has been a step off. Brendan Jaimes went down with an injury on Saturday making his status the for Illinois game and beyond a mystery.
Frost noted during Monday's press conference that teams are throwing previously unseen looks at Nebraska. Line coach Greg Austin has a tall task in righting the ship. The most difficult opponents may be coming to Lincoln, but fans will easily be silenced if their team can't score.
Kicking game: The Huskers are scrambling to pick up the shattered remains of a crucial special teams aspect. Barret Pickering's out. Issac Armstrong's confidence appears bruised and broken. College football demands a good story and so Nebraska turns to home-state kid Lane McCallum.
A former safety brought in from Air Force, McCallum took care of three PATs last Saturday. He's only a few 50-yard field goals in ungodly conditions away from immortality.