Way too early depth charts - Defense
One of three no-brainers to start this year
One of three no-brainers to start this year

Posted Mar 22, 2011


OK, continuing the depth chart, let's look at the "D."

Defensive Tackle

1- Baker Steinkuhler (Jr.)
2 – Thad Randle (So.)

This one was actually pretty tough. I have liked Steinkuhler from an athleticism standpoint and his ability to get off the ball quickly and get up field. I’m not as sold on him as a run stopper. That will be tested in the run-happy Big Ten, but I think coming out of the Spring he should hold his spot at the top. Thad Randle is an up and comer, I’d say. He seems to have the frame to be good inside against the run, but he also has a great first step. Chase Rome was someone I went back and forth in my head about, but experience rules down in the trenches and there happens to be a lot of it.

Nose Tackle

1 – Jared Crick (Sr.)
2 – Terrence Moore (Sr.)

This was an easy one-two for me, as Moore has the size to work inside against the run. He’s not as quick as most of the rest of the guys at the position, and tracking down people from the backside will never be his strong suit. But I think he should work in this role just fine as his size and athleticism at the line, will help to give Crick the rest he’ll likely need in the future.

Middle Linebacker

1- Will Compton (Jr.)
2 – Alonzo Whaley (Jr.)

I’m still betting Eric Martin moves back to middle, but for now he’s at defensive end. That means it will be Whaley and Compton, and I don’t see any way Compton doesn’t come out of the Spring number one. He knows the defense, he’s called it and he seems to be more versatile, side-to-side than Whaley. Now, if Martin does indeed move back to middle, what does that mean? I’d still say Compton is the guy, because he knows all the calls, the keys, the reads – which is something I think Martin still has to get down.

Strongside Linebacker

1 – Sean Fisher (Jr.)
2 – Graham Stoddard (So.)

Yes, I could have gone the way it’s been for what seems like eons now, listing Micah Kreikemeier second behind Fisher. And with the simple lack of time that even Fisher has had either due to the injury or the defense Nebraska was running, I doubt many would argue. But outside of Fisher holding that spot, which I don’t think is even a question at this point, Stoddard has made his mark on special teams, and I think now he’ll take it to the next level. Now, does length matter at the SAM? If it does, that gives the advantage to Krekemeier who goes at around 6-3, while Stoddard is around 6-1. If it doesn’t, I pick Stoddard to come out of the Spring on top. Well, for the second spot, that is.

Weakside Linebacker

1 – Lavonte David (Sr.)
2 – Matt May (Sr.)

David is so obvious there really is no explanation there, but the second spot was a bit of a trial. It honestly comes down to who is working there, and then figuring out who has the most experience. Matt May wins by a margin. Jim Ebke is there, but he doesn’t have the actual playing experience, not to mention the fact that he hasn’t been a fulltime linebacker his entire time with the team. Matt May has a ton of experience from spelling as a linebacker a couple of seasons ago to working a lot in special teams. I think that gives him the edge and probably a big one in regard to holding down number two.

Safety

1 – Austin Cassidy (Sr.)
2 – Corey Cooper (RsFr.)

If you look at the official roster on Huskers.com, you will notice that at least for now, there is no indication as to strong safety, free safety, etc. It either says “S” for safety, or they are simply classified as a DB. I doubt we can draw any real conclusions from that other than it’s early and all that may yet change.

It’s a no-brainer that out of all the returning safeties Cassidy has the most experience in the system. He’s a smart kid who gets things down quickly, and whatever adjustment there is to be made under new secondary coach Corey Raymond, I don’t have any doubt he’ll adjust on the fly very well. But look out for Cooper, who I thought might have a shot to play as a true freshman. But now that he’s out of his redshirt year, the only thing keeping him off the field is the fact that there isn’t a game being played. I’m excited to see this kid play. To look at him, you’d say that in the more downhill style of the Big Ten, he’s going to be right at home.

Safety

1 – Courtney Osborne (Jr.)
2 – P.J. Smith (Jr.)

I could have gone with the infamous “OR” with these two, because I think they are that close in regard to how ready they are to take the starting spot. They have both started in certain defensive situations. So, that’s not going to be an adjustment of any kind. I tip it to Osborne’s favor only because I think he’s better against the run. I know you are probably wondering about Harvey Jackson. I think he’s another, who like Cooper, has huge upside and will definitely make an impact this year. But for Spring, though, I think that experience is key in making strides onto the two-deep right now.

Cornerback

1 – Alfonzo Dennard (Sr.)
2 – Anthony Blue (Sr.)

Dennard is as much a given here as David was at linebacker and Crick is down in the middle. Blue, however, is not. I honestly don’t know what to expect out of him other than he’s healthy right now, which is saying something. And he has a world of experience just being a corner at this level, that speed, the extra reps and all that, shouldn’t be any sort of adjustment for him at all. And we have to remember his freshman year which has been a long time ago at this point. Before his rash of injuries his athleticism was impressive. Can he get it back? I don’t know. The Fall will determine that, but again, I give experience an edge here, even if there isn’t a ton of it actually happening on the field.

Cornerback

1 – Ciante Evans (So.)
2 – Lazarri Middleton (Jr.)

Evans is like Dennard in regard to confidence, only he’s the more silent type. But make no mistake about it, I don’t believe he thinks anyone can truly beat him one-on-one. He showed so much last year when he was thrown into the fire due to injuries. He’s heady, explosive and he has that wonderful nose for the play. As for Middleton, you could accuse me of throwing darts here, and I wouldn’t be able to say, at least honestly, that you wouldn’t be at least somewhat correct. There’s Dijon Washington, who we haven’t heard from, and both he and Middleton are going into their redshirt sophomore seasons. There is Josh Mitchell, who is only a redshirt freshman, but he has huge athletic upside. Then there is Andrew Green, who I heard a lot about last Spring before an injury ultimately sidelined him for the year. The second spot truly is wide open here. But not number one. I think Evans made that his own last year.

Defensive End

1 – Josh Williams (Jr.)
2 – Walker Ashburn (RsFr.)

When Pierre Allen graduated, that opened the door for Williams, who played behind him all of last year. He’s a bigger version of himself as a freshman, as he came in a definite edge rusher, but not someone who you could see against the run, at least from an early down perspective. But he looks the part now, and I have heard he’s taken his game up another notch. As for Ashburn, he’s a lot like Meredith from what I have heard. We know that Meredith as well as fellow defensive end Kenny Anderson are out for the entire Spring due to injury. Ashburn isn’t tall. He goes at around 6-3. But Meredith isn’t tall either. I could realistically see Ashburn backing up Williams or I could see him competing for that starting spot at the other end. But since we all know who the starter there will be come Fall, this is how I see it shake out right now. But Ashburn has the motor. That’s a nice head start.

Defensive End

1 – Jason Ankrah (So.)
2 – Donvan Vestal (RsFr.)

I have to be honest, I watched Ankrah play last year with the limited reps he had, and it was nothing that blew me out of the water. It certainly didn’t compare to the freshman year of Barry Turner, who just dropped jaws with his ability to get off that edge. Maybe Ankrah isn’t that type of guy. Maybe the dual-facet that will be a necessity here will be beneficial for him. But I still think he’s a heck of an athlete. He’s got decent size and his experience gives him the edge at the end of Spring, but he’s obviously fighting for number two when Cameron Meredith gets back. As for Vestal, this was a toss up between him and a lot of guys, and honestly, it was his high school film that sold me. I just love his motor, and coming out of this Spring, I think that could be a big factor for a lot of players to make some noise. If you are wondering about Eric Martin, as you know, I still believe he’s going back to middle, but the rash of injuries at end have kept him on the edge. I think he’s a solid player, but to me, not from the down position. I’m not a coach, so what do I know? I just know from the kind of player he is and how he plays, I prefer him playing up, not down. So, put that one on me.

Special Teams

In the return game, I don’t have a clue. Look at the stats last year to get some idea, and it would tell you that Rex Burkhead is the man, but I will bet you a lot that even if he’s 100 percent before this Spring is over, they won’t have him back there in any “live” drills. Tim Marlowe would be a good one, and maybe Marcus Mendoza might get another crack.

As for punter and kicker, I think Brett Maher is the easy favorite to do the punting. But I don’t know what they are going to do for kicker. It’s pretty obvious from the frantic search they were on to find another kicker over the recruiting season, they don’t feel what they have is going to get it done. I don’t know. I can’t speak to that. I can go off what we see, and I’d have to give Jason Dann the nod coming out of Spring.

Why?

Just because

Like every other position on the field, come the Fall, all this could be completely different.



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