Will David Santos Continue His Double Duty on the Defensive Depth Chart?
Ciante Evans stood out on the depth chart for Nebraska last season because he was listed as both the starting right cornerback and the starting nickelback. Where he lined up depended on whether there were 2 or 3 corners on the field, but he was going to be out there. By season's end, linebacker David Santos found himself in a similar position. He was listed first as co-#1 at both the Will and Buck linebacker spots (he'd also began the season as the starting Mike linebacker). Should we expect to see Santos pulling double duty again this season?
Santos was second on the team in tackles a year ago (both overall and solo tackles) behind safety Corey Cooper. Zaire Anderson emerged as the co-#1 at Will (weakside) linebacker and tallied more sacks and nearly as many tackles for loss as Santos despite appearing in fewer games and getting only half as many starts. Anderson finished fifth on the team in tackles. Michael Rose appears likely to remain the team's starting Mike (middle) linebacker after tying for third on the team in total tackles despite fewer games and starts than Santos. Nathan Gerry played Buck (strongside) as co-#1 with Santos but his production was more modest. That's to be expected to some degree with a true freshman, as Gerry was.
The whole group will be back along with reserve middle backer Josh Banderas and quality prospects Marcus Newby and Courtney Love who are coming off of redshirts seasons. That makes it seem a lot less necessary to have a player listed first on the depth chart at two linebacker positions.
The Huskers will often have two or even just one 'backer on the field when they have to match personnel against spread offenses. Still, there will be important conference games where NU will need to put three linebackers on the field to handle power running teams including games against Michigan State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa.
Chances are that we'll see a lot of Santos. There's enough competition to where he could settle in as the starter at one spot. Still, the coaches may prefer him to be the starting Buck linebacker when three 'backers are used and the starting Will when only two are on the field. Anderson may have the best opportunity to keep him from claiming two spots. If he puts a stranglehold on the Will, then the Buck may be all that remains for Santos, except in relief.