Huskers in 2012: Projecting the Nebraska Cornhuskers' Depth Chart

Mike WehlingAnalyst IFebruary 8, 2012

Huskers in 2012: Projecting the Nebraska Cornhuskers' Depth Chart

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    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?


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    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.

Running Backs

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    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.


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    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.

Tight Ends

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    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.

Offensive Line

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    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.

Defensive Line

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    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.


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    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.


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    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.


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    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.


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    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.