football Edit

Five Nebraska storylines to watch at Big Ten Media Days

Plenty of questions still remain for Mike Riley and Nebraska entering the 2017 season.
Plenty of questions still remain for Mike Riley and Nebraska entering the 2017 season. (Associated Press)

1. What will be the aftermath of the Chris Jones injury?

This immediately became the No. 1 question facing Nebraska when it was announced that star senior cornerback Chris Jones would be out 4-6 months with a knee injury he suffered during summer workouts.

Jones, arguably the Huskers' best overall defensive player, leaves a massive void at a cornerback position that was already relatively thin coming out of the spring.

The seemingly obvious solution would be to move senior Joshua Kalu, a two-year starter at corner who switched to a starting safety spot this spring, back to his old position. That would likely then elevate senior Kieron Williams, who led NU with five interceptions last year, back into the starting lineup at safety.

However, Nebraska's coaching staff really liked the potential of Kalu at safety, and many would argue that he's a much better fit there than at corner.

Does the staff feel good enough about the development of backups like junior Eric Lee or redshirt freshman Dicaprio Bootle to elevate them to a starting cornerback role and keep Kalu at safety?

2. Is Tanner Lee ready for the big time?

The hype surrounding junior quarterback Tanner Lee this offseason has reached heights that few Nebraska players have seen in years, especially considering it's for a player who has yet to take a single game snap as a Husker.

Not only have NU staff and local media been gushing about the transfer from Tulane since the end of last season, but national football analysts have chimed in with speculation as lofty as Lee possibly foregoing his senior year and declaring for the 2018 NFL Draft.

Tuesday will mark Lee's unofficial debut for the rest of the Big Ten Conference, as he was chosen as one of the team's three player representatives to go to Chicago.

Lee got a taste of the magnifying glass that a Nebraska starting quarterback is put under during his rare interviews this spring, but Media Days will kickoff a season where everything the Louisiana native says to the press and does on the field is analyzed and criticized to the fullest extent.

Lee seems to be a player wise beyond his years and more than capable of handling the pressure. How he fares in Chicago should only further that belief.

3. Explaining the recent roster attrition

It's been a run of bad luck for head coach Mike Riley and his staff the past few weeks.

On top of losing maybe their best defensive player in Jones, the Huskers also saw heralded 2017 signee Keyshawn Johnson Jr. withdraw from school in order to work on his off-the-field and health issues.

Not only that, another member of the 2017 class, defensive tackle Deiontae Watts, likely won't ever end up making it to Lincoln at all after failing to qualify academically and having to enroll in a junior college.

The final gut punch came earlier this week, when broke the news that star 2017 cornerback commit Elijah Blades would also not be enrolling at Nebraska after issues came up with his academic eligibility.

Riley and Nebraska have made no public comments yet on Watts or Blades' situations, and there hasn't been an update on where things stand with Johnson since shortly after that news broke back in June.

Needless to say, Riley should get plenty of questions on all three of those matters while he's in Chicago.

The hype is surging around junior quarterback Tanner Lee, who will make his unofficial Big Ten debut on Tuesday.
The hype is surging around junior quarterback Tanner Lee, who will make his unofficial Big Ten debut on Tuesday. (Tyler Krecklow)

4. Will Stanley Morgan Jr. be suspended?

Speaking of Nebraska's offseason bad luck, one of the first things to go wrong this summer was when standout wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. was pulled over while in Florida and initially arrested on suspicion of felony possession of marijuana.

That charge was quickly dropped to a misdemeanor, but it's been widely assumed that the junior would still face some sort of suspension this season by Nebraska as further punishment for his actions.

The common guess is that Morgan will likely be given a one-game suspension for the season opener, based most recently on former NU wide out Brandon Reilly receiving a similar punishment for his DUI arrest prior to last season.

Morgan is expected to be the Huskers' No. 1 receiver and go-to target for Lee in 2017, so any time he misses would be significant for Nebraska's offense.

5. For second straight year, Huskers enter season in mourning

Topping all of the issues Nebraska has gone through this offseason was the sad and unexpected loss of new safeties coach Bob Elliott, who passed away to cancer earlier this month.

Elliott's death marks the second July in a row that the Huskers have lost a member of their program, as punter Sam Foltz was tragically killed in a car accident in July 2016.

It's hard to compare the effects of Elliott and Foltz's deaths on the players seeing how one was a beloved teammate and the other was a coach who had just joined the staff a few months earlier.

But for a team to have to go through something like this for a second straight year, there almost certainly will be an impact on everyone at some level.

One player who will certainly be asked those questions at Media Days is junior safety Aaron Williams, who worked directly with Elliott almost daily during the spring.

Elliott made his fondness for Williams very clear during post-practice interviews, so Williams may have built as strong of a relationship with the coach as any Husker.