Even with losing three starters with over 20 games at the top of the depth
chart, the offense still returns players who have a combined total of over 120
starts for the Huskers last year.
For the defense, it's a little different story
They are, of course, all gone.
Returning is around 80 games worth of starting experience, and of those 80, three players on the defensive line are responsible for over a third of it, junior defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh with 11 games last year, which was the same for senior defensive ends Barry Turner and Zach Potter. The other is senior cornerback Armando Murillo.
|Junior safety Larry Asante comes back as |
one of the most experienced members of
The starting experience for the defense is basically irrelevant, though,
because that entire unit is learning a brand new way of doing things. And on
offense, outside of newcomers, tight end Tyson Hetzer and quarterback Kody Spano, everyone has had at least some schooling on the offense they are running
That means it's going to a steep learning curve for the defense, which Bo Pelini has already said was the case. "They are obviously further ahead than we
are with the known system they're running," Pelini said. "It's going to make us
better in the long run, but we are going through a little growing pains. But
that's to be expected."
While the defense is a work in progress, as they say, there have been
glimpses of some of what you can undoubtedly expect from players on that side of
Junior linebacker, Phillip Dillard, one of our spotlight players over this
spring, hasn't just shed weight, but he's brought back that attitude. It was one
which may have gotten covered up to an extent, because of the weight and Pelini
sees a change in that already. "We know he's a physical guy, but I think he's a
lot more athletic now that he's down in weight," Pelini said.
While Dillard is a bit of a known factor, what isn't known is how some others
are going to work out. With the loss of sophomore cornerback
Anthony Blue in the secondary, it's one less body to work out within a unit that
needs as many bodies as it can get.
Aside from Murillo, you have no starting experience at corner, and at safety
only Larry Asante has any starting experience, the junior college transfer with
nine games under his belt during the 2007 campaign. Candidates for both
positions are amongst the following, and that could change throughout the
|Curenski Gilleylen is one of the many young|
receivers already showing a lot during the
first week of Spring
Sophomore wide receiver Niles Paul saw barely even token reps last year, the
Omaha North standout not truly finding a place in the system. Paul has bulked up
considerably since arriving at the beginning of the 2007 season, and is looked
at to not only be an effective type of slot-receiver, but with his track-speed,
he could work split out wide and has even seen some reps in the return
The same can be said for redshirt freshman Curenski Gilleylen, who has shown
everyone once again, that if you want speed, he's got it and then some. His name
has came up a couple of times over this first week, but expect that to increase
as the Spring progresses.
At running back senior Marlon Lucky seems to have picked up where he left
off, but with a slightly bigger frame, making him a more viable option for being
a consistent inside runner.
Of course, Nebraska has a couple of horses to fill those duties in sophomore
Quentin Castille and senior Cody Glenn. Glenn's remarks about last year's
situation have been well-chronicled up to this point, but I don't think we
should let that take precedence over the kind of potential this young man has
always had. Had he been utilized more in the passing game with Bill Callahan was
the head coach, we might have seen for ourselves what an all-around game this
Texas native has.
Those little tidbits you get from players over the course of practices
already says that Glenn is not only healthy, but running extremely well and even
outran junior safety Rickey Thenarse to the end zone on what some said was at
least a 40-yard gallop.
Where the biggest change will be will obviously be on the defensive side and
as Pelini said himself, it will be very stressful on the linebacking position.
In his system, based on what he did at LSU and Oklahoma, along with his brief
time at Nebraska, you could see an outside linebacker playing from the down
position as much as they might be playing up.
In 2003 Demorrio Williams led the team in sacks with 11 to go along with his 100+ tackles on the season.
|Bo Pelini has his work cut out for him this|
Spring as he tries to catch his defense up to
the Huskewr offense
That's a little different from how things had been done over the last four
years, because current Philadelphia Eagle Stewart Bradley was often used on the
line, but it was more as a fifth lineman in run support.
For our spotlight players this Spring, we have outlined a bit of Dilard's
progress as well as Holt to a degree. Holt, going into his junior year, is a
physical specimen like maybe even he couldn't imagine when he arrived at the
same height of 6-4, but instead of that lanky kid from St. Augustine who was
lucky to be pushing two bills, he's now an imposing 220 pounds. The off-season
conditioning of strength and conditioning coach James Dobson has made Holt and a
host of other Huskers far more ready to play the game.
As we go into week two, you can expect the defense to close at least some
ground on the offense, though, it's realistic that they won't catch up until
perhaps the Fall. And with the first day of full pads already behind us, this is
a week where you can expect the physical intensity to really start hitting a
Will sophomore center Mike Smith be able to help add some depth to that
position after moving from left tackle, which was preceded by a move from
defensive end a year ago?
Can junior Nick Covey establish himself as the number two at middle
With junior Major Culbert now back at safety, can he push for some serious
Who is the number two QB?
There was a lot said about players starting from scratch, but you don't take
a kid who has been in the program for four years learning the offense which is
basically intact, and put him on a level playing field with someone just coming
in. Senior Joe Ganz definitely has the advantage right now, Bo Pelini has
referred to him as "the guy" and has said of Ganz that he's one of the obvious
leaders on the entire team.
Looking for more leaders over the coming weeks, along with establishing
depth, is going to be key, even if you don't know much about the team as a
whole, once the Spring concludes.
But much of this first week has been pointed toward effort as much as it has
been figuring out where guys should be. And Pelini has stated that while a
couple of guys seem to be obvious leaders, he needs more to step up.
Pelini has a reputation for getting that out of kids, even putting little
cards in their locker with things written on them to get their head around what
it takes to be one of the key presences on the team. Expect that to continue as
Keep checking back to Big Red Report as we will keep you up-to-date on the
latest with the team as they try to find themselves over this Spring
Spring Photos – shot by, Paul Gornell