Top 10 Countdown: No. 7

Over the next 20 days, Big Red Report’s Josh Harvey and Bryan Munson will countdown their most important 10 players to Nebraska success in 2014.

No. 10 - Harvey: Vincent Valentine / Munson: Jake Cotton

No. 9 - Harvey: Jake Cotton / Munson: Corey Cooper

No. 8 - Harvey: Corey Cooper / Munson: Tommy Armstrong

No. 7:

Harvey’s pick:

LB – Zaire Anderson
Senior / 5-foot-11, 220-pounds

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.

Linebackers Michael Rose and Josh Banderas would both rank pretty high on my list just outside the top ten, but I feel the depth behind Anderson at the WILL just isn’t quite as strong as the BUCK or MIKE.

Anderson really showed an ability to get to quarterbacks last season and I think the staff will hone in on this after having an offseason to see what a healthy Zaire Anderson brings to the football field.

Throw in the fact he’s a senior and despite not having many D-1 games under his belt, his maturity could be an asset at the position.

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Munson’s pick:
LB – Michael Rose
Sophomore / 5-foot-11/240-pounds

There wasn’t a player that I was more surprised to see play the way that he did last year than Michael Rose. Rose really impressed me mainly because he has size and athleticism. It was once he got to the MIKE position that Rose really hit his stride.

Last season – his freshman season – Rose finished with a freshman record 66 tackles. What’s more is that 49 of those tackles came in the last five games of the season which included games against Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and even Georgia.

Rose was named to the all-freshman team in the conference, but more importantly Rose’s emergence allows players like Josh Banderas and David Santos to maybe settle into other positions around the MIKE spot.

Rose was one of the big reasons that the Nebraska defense seemed to improve as the season went on last year. There was always a thought that the defense really just need OJT (on the job training). It was going to be rough at times, but until they just went out there and played they weren’t going to get better.

If this defense is going to take another step forward it will have to lean heavily on Rose and how successful all of the linebackers are at the second level. Rose should get his numbers and be productive, but when you have players that play sound at MIKE typically there is a rubbing off at WILL and BUCK.

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