The Best Case Scenario - Defensive Line
Whether it's baseball or football, spring is often a time of optimism for the season to come. There's plenty of time for realism once the season begins. There are a number of areas where Nebraska can be hopeful for the coming season. One of the most intriguing is the defensive line. Randy Gregory is already a star. If he simply stays healthy and performs on a level similar to last year, that will be great. But what could we hope for at the other three starting defensive line positions?
Newcomer defensive end Joe Keels is expected to contribute right away and it shouldn't be lost on anyone that Alabama sought his services. Sophomore Greg McMullen was also a standout recruit that chose NU over Ohio State. In the best case scenario, Keels and/or Mullens emerge as stars to provide a tandem of defensive ends that can wreak havoc with outside pressure along with Gregory. South Carolina had a pair like that when they faced the Huskers after the 2011 season. That team won 11 games for the first time in Gamecock history. If redshirt freshman A.J. Natter can start flashing some of his four-star potential, NU will have the two-deep they need at end.
Even in the best case, it would be too soon to expect Vincent Valentine to perform like Ndamukong Suh or Jared Crick at defensive tackle. But perhaps he could be another Steve Warren - a big nose man who will not be moved. If you take away the inside runs and have studs outside at defensive end, you're pretty soon left with nowhere to go. Warren was also a bullrusher who could collapse the pocket and get pressure up the middle that made it extremely difficult for a quarterback to make throws. If that's what Valentine becomes, you would have a very potent line overall.
Aaron Curry was already a sound defensive tackle option. Maliek Collins was thrown into the mix as a true freshman as was Kevin Maurice. If Kevin Williams can come back healthy, he's also a viable option. It would be great to see Jay Guy or Tobi Okuyemi make a mark in their final campaign. In any case, the Huskers don't need excellence from the this group to have a dominant defensive line. They simply need sound options that don't become a weak link for offenses to key on. Can they stand their ground and mind their gaps? If so, that's enough to have an outstanding unit overall.