Huskers in 2012: Projecting the Nebraska Cornhuskers' Depth Chart
The 2011 season is done, and Nebraska still really hasn't taken that next step to become elite again, though they are now becoming a staple in the Top 25. Nebraska could not overcome the adversity of playing in a new league with their players not suited to play in the Big Ten. While we don't know how the 2012 season will play out, Nebraska will have new faces and names playing on Saturdays next year.
The recruiting is done, the seniors are gone and Nebraska has holes to fill in its team: a total of three starters on offense and four on defense, though they return all of the special team players.
Nebraska will have new players filling in the spots left by the seniors, as well as some supplanting the former starters. After four years, former coach Bill Callahan's recruits and players are all gone, and now we see how Bo Pelini's recruits do and if they can elevate the Huskers to a higher level. This season is where we find out how good of a recruiter Bo is.
It is time to get familiar with some names that will become second nature to Nebraska fans. What will the depth chart look like in 2012? And more importantly, who will jump on the pregame pile now that Marcus Mendoza (#32 pictured) has graduated?
Starter: Taylor Martinez
Second String: Brion Carnes
Sorry to anyone who doesn't want Martinez to be the starter; I just don't see that happening. What I do see happening is Tommy Armstrong redshirting next season so as not to waste his eligibility.
However, there is a slight chance that Armstong may get the starting job, as Pelini has been raving about Armstrong's leadership on and off the field. But it hurts him that he will not be coming to campus early, and it's hard to overthrow someone with two years of starting.
Carnes will be regulated to second string. He'll probably have the same role as last year, unless he can show the coaches that he is a better leader for the offense.
Starter: Rex Burkhead
Second String: Aaron Green
Third String: Ameer Abdullah
Fullback: Mike Marrow
Second String: C.J. Zimmerer
Unless Burkhead suffers some horrible injury during the offseason, expect him to be the running back who comes out for the first series of the year. He is Nebraska's workhorse, and they often just like to give him the ball and call it good on the offense. He can catch, run and even play quarterback.
At second string, Aaron Green gets the nod. Ameer was the backup last year, but he fumbles way too much to be reliable. Green is also a more dual threat type of back; he can both catch and run. In his only game as the true backup, versus Washington, Green caught a 25-yard pass for a score and run for a score.
Freshman Imani Cross might get a shot to play, but it would be kind of dumb considering he would fourth on the depth chart and will most likely redshirt.
Nebraska uses the fullback sparingly—the spread really doesn't have a need for it—but I think the spot goes to Marrow, a top fullback recruit who transferred from Alabama. Nebraska native Zimmerer will get the second string spot.
Starter: Kenny Bell
Second String: Justin Westerkamp
Starter: Quincy Enunwa
Second String: Taariq Allen
Starter: Jamal Turner
Second String: Tim Marlowe
Early in the season, Nebraska's receivers were not doing so well, with dropped passes and not separating from cornerbacks, with the exception of Enunwa, who can lay a hit blocking.
As the season went on, Kenny Bell emerged and took the starting job from Brandon Kinnie and was Nebraska's deep threat on passing. He finished with 461 yards and three scores as well as 100 yards rushing and a score. Enunwa was second with 293 and two scores. Turner is fifth with 293, behind tight end Kyler Reed and graduated senior Kinnie. I think these three are solid picks for starters.
Behind them, Westerkamp figures to be a receiver that will play immediately and will most likely be the fourth receiver if the Huskers use a formation that requires it. But for now he is behind Bell. Tariq Allen turned heads on the scout team and was often used as the top receiver for the other team against the first string defense.
Starter: Kyler Reed
Co-Starter: Ben Cotton
Second String: Jake Long
Tight ends are usually a big part of Nebraska's game plan, but last year Reed was injured for most of the season and played sparingly, though he did finish with the fourth most receiving yards. Ben Cotton was used, and let's just say he isn't the fastest tight end. Instead, he is mainly used for blocking, while Reed is the passing threat. Hence the co-starters, as Nebraska plays differently with each one in.
Playing backup again is Jake Long, who should be getting prepped for playing time as Reed and Cotton are both seniors.
Tackle: Tyler Moore
Second String: Mike Moudy
Guard: Sueng Hoon Choi
Second String: Andrew Rodriguez
Center: Cole Pensick
Second String: Ryan Reeves
Guard: Spencer Long
Second String: Ryan Klachko
Tackle: Jeremiah Sirles
Second String: Zach Sterup
The offensive line is where the Nebraska offense loses most of its starters, only returning two. Most of the players are experienced, though, as they rotated or subbed in for during injuries. If Nebraska wants to be a great team, the offensive line is where you need to start. You can have great skill players, but if your o-line is bad, it doesn't matter.
Offensive line is rather hard to predict. Looking back to last year I was wrong on most of them, mostly due to injuries and walk-ons performing better.
This time I took the walk-ons into account and predict two of them will start. Long and Choi both start at the guard spot as they performed better than the other guards last season and got more playing time because of it.
At tackle, backups Tyler Moore and Jeremiah Sirles move in to take the starting spots from graduated seniors. And at center, Cole Pensick takes over for multi-year starter Mike Caputo.
Tackle: Baker Steinkuhler
Second String: Todd Peat
Tackle: Chase Rome
Second String: Thad Randle
End: Jason Ankrah
Second String: Eric Martin
End: Cameron Meredith
Second String: Joesph Carter
The defensive line should have been a strength for Nebraska last year but wasn't. It was hampered by injuries, and the coaching staff even moved an offensive lineman to fill the defense.
On the defensive line, the Huskers actually return all four starters as Jared Crick was injured during the midway point of the season, moving Chase Rome up the depth chart. The only two player with a secure spot, though, are Steinkuhler and Meredith.
Ankrah began to split time with Eric Martin towards the end as Martin developed into a great pass rusher (and Ankrah played some tackle as injuries mounted). While Rome is the second most experienced tackle, he could lose his spot to any of the talented defensive lineman that Nebraska has waiting for their shot.
Starter: Zaire Anderson
Second String: Alonzo Whaley
Starter: Michael Rose
Second String: Will Compton
Starter: David Santos
Second String: Sean Fisher
Linebacker is one position where Nebraska lost tremendous talent and really had no depth behind it. They lost All-American linebacker Lavonte David to graduation and often did not use another linebacker besides Will Compton and on occasion Fisher, who was replaced by Whaley.
As such, I see the linebacking corps having all new faces. One starter will be JUCO transfer Anderson, who the coaches hope can have the same impact as Lavonte David did.
Another will be David Santos who was a highly touted recruit out of high school. The coaches redshirted him last year as a freshman, but they also told him to be ready just in case they needed him. If they were willing to burn a redshirt late in the season, he must be pretty good.
Finally, the last spot goes to Michael Rose, a freshman who looks to make an impact on the field with his leadership and was the only Nebraska recruit in ESPNU's top 150. The other two freshman linebackers, Afalava and Brown will most likely redshirt.
The only returning player I see with a chance to start is Will Compton, who got better as the season went on in 2011.
Cornerback: Mohammed Seisay
Second String: Stanley Jean-Baptiste
Cornerback: Andrew Green
Second String: Ciante Evans
Safety: Damion Stafford
Second String: Courtney Osborne
Safety: Corey Cooper
Second String: P.J. Smith
The secondary is a position where Nebraska usually excels. It is often the strength and sends players to the NFL. Last year was not a good year, though. Alfonzo Dennard was great, but he was injured for the first part of the season, and the whole secondary suffered from a lack of experience.
The secondary features two returning players, Andrew Green and Damion Stafford. Both were first-year starters at their positions and grew into them as the season progressed. Barring injuries or a surprise performance, their spots are safe.
JUCO transfer Seisay figures to be a lock for the other corner. Seisay was a top JUCO prospect and is a great shutdown corner.
The other safety spot is up for grabs. I think it will be down to Courtney Osbourne or Corey Cooper, but I am going to go ahead and pick Cooper.
Place Kicker/Punter/Kickoff: Brett Maher
Second String: Mauro Bondi
Starting at kicker for the second year will be Nebraska native Brett Maher, who is becoming another great kicker in a long line of impressive kickers to come through Nebraska.
When you think about all the games that have been won or lost by a field goal (Boise State, Stanford, Alabama, etc.), it is fortunate Nebraska has such a reliable kicker. Maher will most likely continue his role as the all-around kicking specialist for Nebraska, with Mauro Bondi backing him up and prepping to take over after Maher graduates.
Kick Return: Ameer Abdullah, Tim Marlowe
Punt Return: Ameer Abdullah
Alternate: Rex Burkhead
Holder: Tyson Broekemeier
For the returns, Abdullah showed that he is a great threat. In his second game ever, he returned a kickoff 101 yards for a score. He finished with 763 yards in kickoffs and 107 yards in punts.
His fellow returnman will most likely be Marlowe, who has occupied that spot for the past two years. The alternate is Burkhead, as he goes in when the coaches want to make sure there are no fumbles. He is usually just in there to wave fair catch.
For holder, it's more just who the coaches want it to be. Throughout his career, safety Austin Cassidy was the holder, which had an added benefit of him being a former QB in high school. He could do something if they called a fake or the snap was bad. So I think Tyson Broekemeier could fill that role as he is a walk-on QB.