BigRedReport.com is going to take a position-by-position look of what we learned about the Huskers from spring practices heading into the bulk of the offseason.
From a liability to an asset - it was the main goal for the Nebraska linebacker crew after showing at times in 2013 they were pretty green.
While the Huskers appeared to have a pretty set group of three late last season, linebacker coach Ross Els opened up things in the spring for competition, meaning the media saw lots of rotation at the three spots.
"It's been fun. There has been a lot of rotation. Not really a depth chart, but just trying to find where people fit in," said sophomore Michael Rose. "We are trying to find the chemistry among each other. It's been fun going out and competing with a different guy every day. It really forces you to focus on yourself and not the competition going on, because there are guys out here doing a lot of good things."
Starting seven games in 2013, Rose demolished the freshman single-season tackle record with 66 stops on the year. Despite his efforts, the former Rockhurst high school (MO) star finds himself in a battle with true sophomore Josh Banderas for the starting MIKE spot. Banderas, a former high school All-American, recorded 28 tackles with four starts as a true freshman last season, but made big strides during his first spring in Lincoln. It could be a product of Rose playing the MIKE in the base defense, while Banderas plays the MIKE in the nickel. Both got first-team reps this spring.
If the coaching staff decides the MIKE spot is Rose's in the fall, the BUCK spot might fall to Banderas. The former Lincoln Southwest product practiced half of the spring at the position, battling with junior David Santos, who moved to the position last season mid-year to finish with 87 tackles in 2013. To be honest, both the MIKE and the BUCK seem to close to call at the moment.
Which leaves the WILL spot - a spot that seems all but senior Zaire Anderson's. The former junior college product looked like a different man this spring, showing he was comfortable in Bo Pelini's defensive scheme. Anderson looked to be a step faster, likely because his defensive awareness is at an all-time high. Behind him senior Trevor Roach returns from a foot injury that sidelined him for all of 2013. Roach is considered one of the hardest working linebackers in the group and has become a staple in the film room the past few seasons. He mostly got second and third-team reps in the spring, but did have a few snaps here and there with the ones.
Rounding out the depth at the backer position this season will be redshirt freshman Courtney Love and Marcus Newby. Love was named Scout team defensive player by his teammates last year and could play BUCK or MIKE. Newby is speed-rushing specialist who will likely talked a lot more about when talk about the defensive end position in a few days. Defensive coordinator John Papuchis said during the spring Newby was likely a year away from helping at the linebacker position.
Joining the seven linebackers in the fall will be true freshman Jaevon Walton from Edna Karr high school in Louisiana. Based off comments about the three-star linebacker during his national signing day press conference, Pelini is very high on Walton – although we still fully expect a redshirt year.
PROJECTED BRR FALL DEPTH CHART:
1A) Michael Rose – redshirt sophomore
1B) Josh Banderas – sophomore
1.) Zaire Anderson – senior
2.) Trevor Roach – senior
1A.) Josh Banderas – sophomore
1B.) David Santos – junior
2.) Courtney Love – redshirt freshman
3.) Marcus Newby - redshirt freshman