Entering Nebraska’s 2014 season, there wasn’t a position group that got more hype and more love from coaches, fans, and media than the defensive line. With All-American candidate, defensive end Randy Gregory as the anchor of the front-four, expectations became very high prior to the season.
For the most part, the defensive line has shown flashes of being a really good group – maybe even great. At different times in their first five games, they shown to be explosive and have talent needed to be an elite defensive line.
With that said, the numbers show their can still be real improvement. Nebraska currently ranks No. 23 in the country in tackles for loss and No. 45 in sacks. Those numbers don’t remind Nebraska fans of the days of Ndamukong Suh and Jared Crick. The defensive line has been the strongest position group on defense, but this Saturday is their chance to really live up to the hype.
As the Huskers meet up with Michigan State in East Lansing, they will need a dominating performance from their front four. An occasional sack from Gregory and run stuff from the defensive tackles won’t be enough. Those four players will have to find a way to harass the offense all night long. Penetration and chaos is what they need to create.
As reported by Ben Stram of Spartan Digest, Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook is conscious of Gregory and knows he has to get the ball out quickly to have success against the Huskers.
“You gotta know where he’s at but I trust my offensive line no matter who we’re going up against,” Coook said. “I’m going to stick to my reads, I’m going to stick to myself, I’m going to trust them and know obviously I want to get rid of the ball quickly but I’m not going to try to rush anything just because of a certain player.”
What Gregory and the other three need to do is get Cook to question his trust of his offensive line. They need to do this early and never let off the gas.
Cook cannot be allowed to get comfortable and in rhythm. He has wide receivers with great size and athleticism. If he is given the time, the potential first-rounder could have a big day against Nebraska. Defensive tackles Vincent Valentine and Maliek Collins need to collapse the pocket often as Gregory makes work on the edge. Plays for zero and negative yards might be the most important stat of the game for the defense.
Beyond all the talk of talent, potential, expectations, and hype the time is now for this defensive front to show they have what it takes to dominate a line of scrimmage from beginning to end.
*** Posted by Josh Harvey ***