Countdown to Spring: Defensive End

While there are plenty of positions, which will demand a ton of attention this spring, defensive end probably isn't one of them. Both starters come back, there's an abundance of experience on the depth chart and much like death and taxes, this position like few others, is considered right now, a rock. There could be some changes within that, though, because for some, there's still plenty to prove. We'll get you our feedback on who we believe will prove what this spring.

You had to have that warm fuzzy feeling inside when you knew that Adam Carriker was coming back. Foregoing a certain opportunity to get drafted, Adam said that he was having so much fun, he wanted to come back and have some more. He and Jay Moore could comprise what should be one of the most formidable bookend combinations in the Big 12 this year.

But what about those guys behind?

Well, it's hard to think of sophomore Barry Turner as behind anyone, but because he serves a very specific role or at least, did last year, the same is assumed this season, providing he even stays where he's at. That's for another discussion, but is versatility make him a weapon who can be used almost anywhere on the field.

As to the defensive ends as a whole, no, there probably won't be much of anything you will learn about Carriker and Moore and even Turner, that you didn't already know. It will be time, though, for those players trying to get time, to step up their game and show what they can do. From the top on down, we give you our thoughts on who is where, why and just how that translates to fall and what, if anything, can anyone else coming in do to get some time themselves.

And what about recruiting? This position is suddenly going to need some attention as any would when they lose their two starters. We'll look at that as well.

Adam Carriker (6-6, 280) – It's not a question of if, but when. Fortunately for Husker fans, the "when" is after his final year is done. The bull-rushing, brutish senior rush end will work to better on his team leading 9 ½ sacks, but it could take more work than last year.

There's no question about Carriker being the starter, but there is some question as to just how much he'll have to do, because he's got some new guys inside. With that being the case, Carriker could have to take some of the load for them.

This spring, it's only about taking the off-season conditioning and seeing where he's at and where he yet thinks he needs to go. Chances are, that will mean that you will indeed get a bigger and even stronger version than last year. If that is the case and he gets the needed help inside, you don't need to hope for him, rather, you need to hope for the guy he's facing. Whoever that is, is in for a long damn day.

Jay Moore (6-4, 270) – It might be just me, but it would seem everyone has been trying to replace Moore from the second he stepped onto the field as a starter. Granted, when he first hit the field, his other half (Carriker) was decidedly bigger and stronger than he was. Moore has done a lot to close that gap, well, as much as you can on a guy who Moore says actually gets bigger whenever he looks at weights, versus those that actually have to lift them.

With all that being said, I think Moore is as much cemented here as Carriker is at his spot and a lot of it has to do with the style of defense that is being run. Guys, who are perhaps not quite as bit, but might be quicker, serve a specific purpose throughout any particular game. Moore is only getting better at serving his, something he proved this last year, Moore one of five different Huskers to finish the season with double-digit tackles for loss.

There are some who would replace him before he's even had a chance to leave, but I am definitely not one of them. I believe that both he and Carriker are THE anchors for end this year.

Barry Turner (6-3, 245) – What a debut. If it wasn't the sacks, it was the blocked kicks. If it wasn't the blocked kicks, it was just the presence Turner made in the backfield. For any player, what Turner did was good, but for a true freshman, you can pick your jaw off the floor.

This kid is legit

Everyone hopes each freshman will be a star in his own right, but Turner has already cemented that he just doesn't have the potential, but he's realized some of it thus far. And the great thing is, this kid has three more years to play.

With Wali Muhammad gone, they are going to have to find someone else to anchor down the other end in pass rushing situations. Turner is quick, but he needs to have someone with his kind of quickness at the opposite end or even he is going to have some problems wreaking the kind of havoc in the backfield he wants.

I would imagine that in the spring, you are going to see even more of Turner than you did last year, because there will probably be a little experimenting going on. Whether it's with him at linebacker in the 4-3 defense or just doing different things at end, Barry should get a lot of reps this time around.

He's proven himself, though, so it's not a matter of what else he has to prove. Now the big key is, just how you can best use a kid that will be even a bigger star than he's already become.

Ty Steinkuhler (6-3, 260) – I won't say his time has come, but the time has come to step up. Steinkuhler got into eight games last year, but I'd say he at least should be THE guy to back up either Moore or Carriker this time around. There seemed to be a mish-mosh of sorts when it came to that, the staff rotating the quicker guys in, but much of that had to do with the success the entire defensive line was having, along with the kind of pressure the linebackers were able to get into the backfield.

You should expect the linebackers to be at least as good, but the defensive ends, until that interior gets figured out as to just what they can do and if there is any fall off from last year, they will probably have it a little tougher going, especially early on.

That means substitutions and while Ty served a decent role last year in that, he should serve a much bigger role this time around. He's got the size and he's got the quickness, so I think all he needs are the reps.

That's something I think he should get plenty of this spring.

Kevin Luhrs (6-1, 255) – Call him mr. dependable, because this is the guy the staff was going to more and more as the year went along. It wasn't in a lot of games, Kevin just playing in four, but the frequency of his appearances within those games obviously caught everyone's eye.

He's not big when you compare him to Carriker or Moore, but he plays big at the point of attack. He is especially good in creating containment and holding down his spot. A guy like that can't play over the top like others can, who are physically more daunting. But Luhrs uses leverage well enough, he's not a real easy guy to move around for anyone.

Kevin might be mr. dependable yet again this year, but it served him well enough last season, for the limited time he got. If he proves that dependable over spring, though, he should see his overall reps increase.

Zach Potter (6-7, 270) – How can you not love what this kid did in his duty on special teams? There's a saying about making the most out of what you have and Potter most definitely did that.

Now is when he takes the next step and plays the position he came to Nebraska to play

Physically, there's nothing you don't love about the kid. He's tall, quick off the ball and while he's not quick, he's probably got the knees to be a decent edge rusher, versus having to rely on bull rushing, because he's not necessarily flexible enough to bend around his guy consistently.

He'll build that over time, but I actually like the form he has now. It's a nice combination of size, speed and quickness, plus, I always think of Ed "Too Tall" Jones, when I think of someone this height who knows how to rush the quarterback. Sometimes you don't have to get there to make a big impact on the play. At Zach's height, if you get close, sometimes that's enough.

I would figure defensive line coach John Blake to work Potter in frequently, just to see what this kid can do. I can't project him on either side, because I think they will try to figure that out over spring.

It should be fun to watch, though, because that lovely thing called upside, is something Potter has in abundance.

Adam Blankenship (6-2, 245) – I remember the spring game last year where Blankenship notched two sacks, which led his Red squad as they had to go against the number one unit in White. We haven't seen a thing from him since.

That could be for a lot of reasons, though, and Adam did show good quickness, solid strength and ability to get off that edge and get to the QB, and against the first string O-line.

Of course, even the first string O-line for the Huskers have problems protecting the passer, but that shouldn't diminish what Blankenship did. It was seniors taking on a redshirt freshman.

I actually think that Blankenship could see a rebirth of sorts this spring, as he is certain to get ample time to see what he can do. This staff might have their starting rush ends, but those guys behind him, especially those not considered situational in nature, that still has to be figured out. It's going to be a battle as I expect there's going to be no less than four guys with a realistic shot on the two-deep. This will be Adam's time to prove that one of those positions is his.

Dontrell Moore (6-2, 230) – It was a late move, but a brilliant one as I do believe Moore moving to rush end is right where he should be. With the loss of Wali Muhammad, there's going to be someone needed, who can take his spot and while there's lots of quickness to be found at this position, it's rush end quickness and Moore brings that linebacker-playing-rush end get up and go.

It's no secret that Nebraska likes having that kind of quickness on those situations and while there might be linebackers to spare in that role, they need another rush end that can do what Muhammad did. I don't think Moore is quite that quick, but he should be quicker than every other rush end. Well, except for Barry Turner.

I would expect that this is the duo you will see for much of the spring in third down and obvious passing situations. We'll see if it lasts

When you look to the fall, Pierre Allen will no doubt try his hand at getting on the field right away. And his quickness might be able to make that happen for the Denver native. He's certainly quick enough off the line to suit the purpose of an edge rusher in passing situations. But can he handle the physical part of the job. That's the question he'll have to answer in the fall.

Mike Smith is actually one that when you look at him physically, this guy might actually be able to make an impact right away. Normally, I wouldn't think so, but based on how Blake has used his rush ends at this point, Smith's physicality does make him at the very least, an intriguing prospect. He's strong as an ox, big and he's got tight end-type quickness off the line. That wont' guarantee him anything in the end, but it might get him at least a very serious look at seeing just what he can do his first year.

Besides, there's always special teams, which everyone has a shot at playing after they arrive.

A lot of what this staff will do as far as how many defensive ends they take, will depend on just how they think the future looks with the group they have. There are lots of bodies, but are they on the sidelines now simply because Carriker and Moore are that good, or are some having issues even getting onto the field?

I think that regardless of the answer, Nebraska will have to look at getting one for certain, but two defensive ends would be nice. I don't know that you take three, unless you can find one you can project either to this position or on the offensive side of the ball. Size matters and that could help some of them get a look at being anything from a DE, to TE or even offensive tackle, which I think could be where Mike Smith ultimately lands.

As it is, it will be a fun spring to watch, but don't expect to learn about when it comes to who will be taking the field first for the blackshirts. At this position, I think that's pretty much set. From the second string on down, though, that's where the battle begins. It's show out or get out, as the kids like to say. This spring you should have a very good idea of who will be doing what.

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