Five burning questions heading into Indiana week
After a week off to rebound from an ugly loss at Minnesota, Nebraska now gets back to work this week looking to bounce back at home against Indiana.
Here are five of the biggest questions still facing NU going into Indiana week...
1. How much did the bye week accomplish?
The theme from the players and coaches following Nebraska's 34-7 blowout road loss at Minnesota was that the team needed some time to step away and recharge not only physically, but also just as much mentally.
The Huskers went seven straight games without a bye, making them one of only two Big Ten teams to go that long without a week off. They were obviously beaten up by a number of injuries, but they were also worn down mentally - and it showed big time in Minneapolis.
Tight end Austin Allen came out and said after the Minnesota game that he thought the players "just need to get away from each other for a bit."
Now with a full week to regroup and refocus, will Nebraska be ready to attack the second half of the season and make the most of the opportunities still on the table? Or will it continue to be more of the same?
2. Is Adrian Martinez ready to return?
Nebraska would get a big boost in its bounce-back efforts this week if quarterback Adrian Martinez were able to return to action after sitting out against Minnesota.
After suffering a leg injury in the win over Northwestern, Martinez was a game-time decision and traveled to Minneapolis. But he never even suited up for pre-game warmups, turning the reins over to backup Noah Vedral.
Vedral was far from the main reason for NU's struggles against the Gophers, but the Huskers built this offense around Martinez and need their sophomore captain back on the field.
While he didn't play at Minnesota, Martinez was at least in pads following one practice during the week leading up to the game. We'll see how much work he's able to do this week leading up to Indiana.
3. Will Wan'Dale Robinson be limited?
Nebraska's offense can't afford to lose any of its playmakers right now, and one of its top weapons is coming off an injury that forced him to miss most of the game at Minnesota.
True freshman Wan'Dale Robinson has been as consistent and productive as any skill player on the roster this season, but his injury leaves him as a major question mark coming out of the bye.
The good news is that head coach Scott Frost said last week that Robinson would be "fine," hinting that the injury wasn't too serious.
That was further supported when HuskerOnline saw Robinson walking on campus without any crutches, walking boot, or even a noticeable limp.
Like Martinez, Robinson's status will become much clearer after seeing how much of a workload he gets this week in practice.
4. Will changes be made on the offensive line?
Unable to do much of anything with the football, Nebraska made its first non-injury related change on the offensive line against Minnesota by subbing in Broc Bando for Trent Hixson as the top left guard.
It remains to be seen if the move is permanent or just a one-game wrinkle, but Frost didn't rule out that and possibly even more shakeups for the Huskers' up front.
Now finally having a midseason bye week, Frost and his staff were able to get some thorough evaluations of their younger players to see if anyone was ready to help the team for the rest of the season.
Last week Frost specifically mentioned freshmen on the o-line like Bryce Benhart and Ethan Piper as guys he would be keeping a close eye on.
Frost added that he'd prefer to have a bit more of a rotation on the o-line anyway, and as long as some backups prove they're ready to play, we could see a deeper mix in that group going forward.
5. Has Kade Warner emerged as NU's next go-to receiver?
Nebraska has been searching for someone - anyone - to step up and provide some consistent depth and production at wide receiver behind JD Spielman and Robinson. Until Minnesota, it hadn't gotten anywhere in that search.
But with the return of sophomore Kade Warner, who had missed five of the first six games with an injury, the Huskers might finally have found a capable No. 3 receiver for the back half of the season.
Warner caught three passes for 38 yards against the Gophers, and he looked like the dependable safety valve he was last season when he started seven of the final nine games and had at least one reception in six of those seven starts.
Warner might not be the dynamic athlete as some of the other wideouts in the room, but he's got a knack for knowing how to get open and finding the football. The walk-on caught 17 passes for 95 yards in 2018, ranking sixth on the team in receptions despite not playing the first three games.
As long as he can stay healthy, Warner should be a welcomed addition to the passing game this week and beyond.