Next Priority: Rebuilding the Defense
Nebraska's recent postseason experience left some big questions defensively. One regret Bo Pelini expressed as he announced his latest recruiting class was, "The one mistake I did make is that I didn't play some of the (young) kids more". "We're going to fire our guns next year". "I told every kid that I looked at in recruiting 'Get your butt ready to play.' Because that's going to be our mind-set. We're going to try to get each one of these kids ready to play." "We're going to try to use every ounce of depth that we have. Like I said, our mind-set, like it always is, is to go win them all. There are a number of these young men who could be a big part of that." So now that Nebraska brings in a new class, as well as a number of players who redshirted in 2012. What will the defense look like?
It starts up front. Once Baker Steinkuhler went down in the last game of the regular season, the whole defense appeared to take a big step backward. You're starting front four for next year (based on playing time so far) would appear to have Jason Ankrah starting at one defensive end spot, Thad Randle (though he's recovering in Spring) at defensive tackle, Kevin Williams as the other tackle, and perhaps Avery Moss playing the other end. On the interior, your top backups might be Aaron Curry and Vincent Valentine. Behind them, Jay Guy and Tobi Okuyemi return. The true freshmen will be Maliek Collins and Kevin Maurice. Having a veteran like Chase Rome back would surely have helped considerably, but it was announced yesterday that he'll leave the program. The top backups at end might be Greg McMullen and Walker Ashburn. Donovan Vestal also returns. In a perfect world, juco defensive end recruit Randy Gregory would redshirt. That may not happen. Three true freshman ends arrive too in A.J. Natter, Dimarya Mixon, and Ernest Suttles
The linebacking corps must find three new starters and depth behind them. Max Pirman, Trevor Roach, and David Santos might be the favorites to start. Last year's class at linebacker should also join the mix including the healing juco transfer Zaire Anderson, and freshmen Thomas Brown, Michael Rose and Jared Afalava. Courtney Love has a head start both physically and in terms of preparation as an early arriving true freshman. Marcus Newby and Josh Banderas would ideally redshirt but either or both could be called upon this year.
Nebraska's loaded with veteran cornerbacks. Ciante Evans, Andrew Green, Josh Mitchell, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Mo Seisay, Charles Jackson, and Daniel Davie have all seen snaps for NU. Transfer Jonathan Rose played nine games at Auburn after being a top recruit in 2011. It seems likely they can redshirt Joseph Boaz though his size and physicality will make him an appealing contributor.
Safety is another story. Harvey Jackson, Corey Cooper and Wil Richards are the only players with experience. The early arrival of true freshman D.J. Singleton could make him a candidate to contribute. LeRoy Alexander comes off of a redshirt year as well. The safety responsibilities are probably complex enough that neither true freshman Drake Martinez nor Nathan Gerry would be ready this season. Instead more depth would have to come by poaching cornerbacks (or wide receivers).
That's an awful lot to replace. Virtually the entire front seven plus your starting safeties. The new recruits certainly help, but chances are most of the contributions will come from returning players.