No. 24 Nebraska opens with sky-high expectations

Field Level Media

August 27, 2019 at 4:33 pm.

The grace period is over for Scott Frost, who returned to his alma mater with great expectations last season only to see Nebraska lose its first six games.

Wins in four of the final six games and the high ceiling of dual-threat quarterback Adrian Martinez, however, are two of the many reasons that optimism is sky-high for the 24th-ranked Cornhuskers, who begin this season against visiting South Alabama on Saturday in Lincoln, Neb.

Frost isn’t interested in buying into the hype heading into the season opener.

“You always think you’re ready,” Frost said, per the Lincoln Journal Star.

“I’ve been so impressed and pleased with the way the camp’s gone (but) you never know until the live bullets start flying and we get out there playing an opponent. But the guys are hungry for it; I think they’re more confident than they’ve been in a long time and I’m excited to watch them play.”

Martinez provided plenty of excitement during his freshman season in 2018, with the quarterback finishing with 3,246 yards of total offense and 25 total touchdowns (17 passing, eight rushing) while setting 11 school records.

Now, is Martinez worried about another slow start to the season?

“No one wants to go back to that. In my mind, we won’t,” Martinez said.

While Stanley Morgan Jr. has graduated, junior JD Spielman and highly touted freshman Wan’Dale Robinson are expected to give Martinez significant passing options.

The rushing game, however, is a bit unclear with Maurice Washington’s availability in question as he awaits word on a pending court case. Dedrick Mills may get the nod after rushing for 1,358 yards and a NJCAA-high 19 touchdowns at Garden City Junior College (Kan.) last year. He began his career at Georgia Tech.

“Probably has better breakaway speed than I expected and he’s hard to bring down,” Frost said of Mills.

While a high-powered offense has raised expectations in Lincoln, the Jaguars enter Saturday’s contest looking to build off a 3-9 campaign in 2018 during Steve Campbell’s first year at the helm.

Cephus Johnson will be under center on Saturday after completing 7 of 19 passes for 120 yards and three touchdowns with one interception in eight games (one start) last season.

Campbell, however, kept the door open to insert other options at quarterback, namely Desmond Trotter or junior college transfer Tylan Morton.

“I’m not going to paint myself into a corner and say never, but Cephus has won the starting job,” Campbell said, per AL.com. “And we’ve got all the confidence in the world in him.”

Running back Tra Minter, who is one of six returning offensive starters, led the Sun Belt Conference in all-purpose yards at 150.3 per game last season.

Wideout Kawaan Baker, who is a preseason second-team All-Sun Belt selection, tied a school record with 13 touchdowns (nine rushing, four receiving) last season.

Defensive end Tyree Turner joins cornerback Jalen Thompson in making their second visit to Memorial Stadium. The pair was on the field in South Alabama’s 48-9 loss to Nebraska in 2015.

“That was my first college (road) game,” Turner told AL.com. “It was loud, loudest I’ve ever heard. It was kind of overwhelming, being a freshman.

“We know it’s going to be loud. Once we get past that, I think we’ll settle in.”