Defense progressing, depth developing

With all the questions about the offense, the defense has had its own share of mountains to climb, especially when you consider some of the players lost. But as Defensive Coordinator Carl Pelini talked about after practice today, replacing players is a lot easier now than it used to be.

"Our emphasis was becoming more multiple, and really forcing them to be more comfortable out of the base calls and into the pressures and our movements. We feel like we are getting there," he said. "We aren't there yet, because you still have to spend a segment of time working your base stuff. I think we are getting there, and hopefully by the end of Spring we'll have accomplished our goals there."

One of the new additions to the defensive line is Eric Martin, a junior who moved from Linebacker before the end of last year. Pelini said that Martin has found himself a home at the position and is doing well. "Eric is having a heck of a Spring. He's really playing well as a defensive end. He's  playing well in all the different roles we are asking him to play. He's really made that transition well," Pelini said.

On his size which isn't typical when comparing him to the likes of Cameron Meredith, Josh Williams and Jason Ankrah, who all go at around 6-2 or taller, and are perhaps a little bigger overall, Pelini said that what Martin brings to the table is still valuable and especially different. "He gives you a little different look than some of the other guys. Maybe a little more speed and athleticism. Not quite the size, but he's plenty strong enough," he said.

At the corner position, the story this year has obviously been more about who is gone versus who is coming back. The leaders at the position right now seem to be senior Alfonzo Dennard and sophomore Ciante Evans. But Pelini said that there is a group of younger players who have stepped up over this Spring. "Andrew Green is really having a good Spring. Dijon Washington is playing well. Josh Mitchell is playing well. Those are the guys who come to mind. It's important to get depth at that corner position," he said.

Eric Martin making big stride at DE

At linebacker the emphasis has been more about how there are going to be a lot more of them on the field at one time than there has been in some time. The move to the Big Ten has put a big emphasis on the fact that the team will need more linebackers. And that also brings up the point that if health issues become a concern as they did last year, they might not have enough to go around. But for now, they are healthy and progressing, according to the Husker D.C, who also said that between this position and basically the entire defense, one big advantage is having people back who know the system up and down.

"I still hate them all. Most of them. I still hate most of them," Pelini said with a laugh. " You've got some great leadership - having Fish (Sean Fisher) back and Will (Compton). They are getting used to playing together. Across the whole defense, there's a lot of communication on our defense between safety and linebacker, too. When you look at that group, Fish, Lavonte, Will, (Austin) Cassidy, (Courtney) Osborne, P.J. Smith - those are all guys who are experienced (and) get the scheme."

On the defensive line junior Thad Randle continues to work with the first unit along with Terrence Moore. Randle is one who has made solid progress both physically and mentally this Spring, as well as Nebraska's true freshman, Kevin Williams. "He had a great Spring. He really impressed all the coaches and looks like a veteran out there. It's shocking," Pelini said of Williams, who came in this January with offensive lineman Tyler Moore and quarterback/wide receiver Jamal Turner. "Both of our newcomers (Tyler Moore) - it's shocking how quickly they adapted to college football. (And) Thad is having a great Spring. Physically, he's a different player. He still got his speed, but he's a lot stronger in there and he handles the double teams. He is a really athletic defensive tackle"

Pelini admitted that he's not used to this kind of depth. Even with the loss of Meredith at end as well as Kenny Anderson who plays defensive end, senior Jared Crick is out for the rest of the Spring. But the emphasis in recruiting from the day the Pelini brothers arrived, has paid off. "It extends out to the end position once you get Cameron (Meredith) back. You need depth at that position, and that's something we've developed over the years. I think on both sides of the ball," he said. "Our recruiting philosophy has become that got to be good up front. To be good defensively, you got to be good up front. Offensively, you got to be good up front. So, we've really as a staff have made an effort early in the recruiting process to identify big guys. And really recruit them hard as an entire staff and not just leave it up to one guy to try and land him."

The Huskers hit the field last week for a huge scrimmage on Saturday. And Pelini expects that tomorrow will be the same thing. "We'll probably do the same thing tomorrow. This will be the last time we'll scrimmage as units. We'll divide those units up for the Spring Game," he said.

Check out the following link for the post practice with Carl Pelini

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