Nebraska’s first game of the season is just around the corner as it will face the South Alabama Jaguars on Saturday, Aug. 31. The Jaguars come to Lincoln after a 3-9 season last year.
The last time these two faced off was at Memorial Stadium in 2015 when the Huskers came out victorious 48-9.
Here are four South Alabama players to watch:
Cephus Johnson, QB
South Alabama will be breaking in a new starting quarterback against Nebraska in sophomore Cephus Johnson. Last season, the Jaguars were led by senior quarterback Evan Orth, but with his graduation there was an ensuing position battle for the starting spot. Johnson was the presumed number one for most of camp, but was officially named the starter on Monday.
Johnson saw some game action last year because of his athleticism. He is a dual-threat quarterback who ran more than he threw last season as he had 28 rush attempts compared to 19 passing attempts. He didn’t particularly impress in either area as he averaged 2.2 yards per rush and only completed 37% of his passes.
As long as the Huskers can keep the former 2-star prospect in the pocket, they should be able to neutralize his strengths.
Tra Minter, RB
One of the biggest helps for a young quarterback is to have a steady running game. It allows them to not have to use their arm as much and can be huge in gaining confidence. Senior Tra Minter will do his best to help his quarterback.
Last season, Minter and now-graduated wide receiver Jamarius Way were the biggest weapons on the Jaguars’ offense. Minter ran for 801 yards with an average of 4.4 yards per rush as well as adding 201 receiving yards in 2018. He also returned kicks and punts for South Alabama, taking one punt all the way back for a touchdown.
Now that Way has graduated, it will be up to Minter to carry the load on offense as the number one option. He will receive help from the next guy on the list, but if Minter doesn’t get going, the Jaguars will have a tough time against the Husker defense.
Kawaan Baker, WR
As mentioned earlier, the Jaguars graduated Way, their star wide receiver, but they had a replacement waiting in the wings. Junior wide receiver Kawaan Baker had a productive season last year as the number two receiving option for the Jaguars.
Baker’s versatility is his greatest attribute; he can run the ball as well as catch. Last season, he was number two on South Alabama in both rushing and receiving yards, going for 251 and 494 yards respectively. Now, as the number one receiver in the offense, he will need to step up his production for the Jaguars to have a successful season.
Tyree Turner, DT
On the defensive side of the ball, all eyes will be on senior defensive tackle Tyree Turner. He is the lifeblood of the Jaguars’ defensive line as he had 51 tackles last season, 10 of which were for a loss and four being sacks. His impressive season earned him Second Team All-Sun Belt honors.
In Saturday’s game, Turner will be the first test for the largely unproven interior of the Husker offensive line. Both freshman center Cameron Jurgens and sophomore guard Trent Hixson will be playing in their first game for Nebraska, leaving junior Boe Wilson as the only interior lineman with game experience.
This inexperience could mean a big game for Turner, as he will try to live up to his preseason First Team All-Sun Belt honor. If Turner starts to wreak havoc on the Husker backfield, it could be the first step in a frustrating day for the Husker offense.