1.)CenterThis is one of the most undervalued positions in football, and Nebraska will lose a savvy two year starter in Mike Caputo. There are plenty of options to replace Caputo, with Coach Pelini naming Cole Pensick, Justin Jackson, Mark Pelini and Ryne Reeves as possible candidates. One player that isn't a candidate is starting guard Spencer Long. Pelini said that he likes where Long is at and won't move him. Right now I would give Pensick, the junior Lincoln native, the best chance of winning the job.
2.) Running BackWith Braylon Heard moving to cornerback, the battle for backup to Rex Burkhead is down to two players: sophomores Aaron Green and Ameer Abdullah. Neither player was overly impressive in their freshman year at running back. (Though Abdullah did do well as a returner) At this point I would give the edge to Abdullah, because 1) he's seen the field more (even if it was just returning kicks, it appeared to give him confidence) and 2) he seemed more comfortable and dynamic than Green in the playing time he did see.
3.) Weakside LinebackerOne of the biggest holes on the defensive side of the ball will be that left by Lavonte David. The replacement candidates are Alonzo Whaley, David Santos and perhaps Max Pirman. One should also keep in mind that junior college transfer Zaire Anderson will be at Nebraska in the fall, adding another candidate for the job. However, expecting him to start right away would be unrealistic, so I give an advantage to Whaley as of now. He's a senior who has improved his competitiveness and overall play according to coaches. Don't rule out Santos either: the redshirt freshman may be the most talented linebacker Nebraska has.
4.) SafetyThis is a position that is really difficult to predict. Losing a starter in Austin Cassidy may not seem like a huge loss (like David or Dennard) but he was essentially the captain of the defense and his leadership will be missed. There are two spots to fill and four players stand out: Daimion Stafford, P.J. Smith, Courtney Osborne and Corey Cooper. The first three are seniors, and you can probably pencil in Stafford as a starter, but he needs to improve his overall grasp of the defense. Smith and Osborne have started games in the past, but have since fallen off the map. With new coach Terry Joseph coaching defensive backs, there's a definite possibly that another player could come out of the woodwork, since everyone is starting on a relatively level playing field.
5.) Defensive TackleNebraska returns Baker Steinkuhler at this position, and loses Jered Crick and Terrence Moore. Chase Rome, Thad Randle, Todd Peat and Jay Guy are some names that you would expect to fill the role. The problem with this list of these players is that almost all of them are dealing with injuries of some sort. Peat will be out for the entire spring. Another thing to keep in mind is that this is a position where a number of players will see time rotating in and out, but I'm sure coaches want one of them to become entrenched as a starter alongside Steinkuhler. Based on potential I would give the nod to Rome who played well as a true freshman – something tough to do at the position he plays.
- Josh Harvey -