Nebraska Blackshirts Ready to Set the Tone for 2009

Bugeatersteve StuchlikCorrespondent IJanuary 14, 2009

After a season in which the offense led by quarterback Joe Ganz was the strength of the team, 2009 appears, on first glance, to be the strength of the team in theory at least.

With defensive MVP Ndamukong Suh, announcing last week that he was in fact returning for his senior season, that brings the number of returning players who started at least five games last season up to nine.

Throw in 2007 starting defensive end Barry Turner, who broke his leg in the second game of the season last year. Turner who is fully recovered is expecting to be granted a red shirt for last season will team with fellow defensive end, sophomore Pierre Allen and you have a D-line ready to wreak havoc next season.

"This will be the first time in 20 years of coaching that I went in with that much solid experience on the D-line," said Carl Pelini, who doubles as the defensive line coach. "And to me, that's the secret to having a great defense."

As we are all aware, the offense finished the season ranked second in the nation in time of possession, was 12th in total offense and 17th in scoring offense. But it may be a different story next season.

Bo Pelini will have to replace his starting quarterback, running back, their top two receivers, and several offensive linemen who started a combined 58 games last season. But having a strong defense can have the same effect as the offense did last season in the opposite direction.

Again Carl Pelini, ever the optimist says, "I'm not worried about the offense," he said. "They'll always be good. They're going to score points."

In the Gator bowl the defense limited Clemson to only 212 total yards and four yards rushing, both season bests. If not for the three turnovers by the Huskers, one wonders if a shutout may have been possible given the solid defense that was played.

Despite all the problems going into this past season, the Blackshirts showed what a little coaching can do. With the Pelini’s leading the way; the Huskers finished second in the Big 12 in total defense, trailing only 12-1 Texas, a year after they ranked last in the league and 112th nationally.

With Suh returning along with his 76 tackles, 19 of those for loss and seven and a half sacks he will be a marked man going into next season. But he is up for the challenge.

Anxious would be an understated word to describe Suh’s attitude towards next season. "I can't wait to get it started. I'd start practice at eight o'clock tonight if they let me." 

Passing up a multi-million dollar contract in the NFL to return to Lincoln speaks volumes towards the Husker’s coaching staff. Suh is expected to take out a one million dollar insurance policy to protect himself next season.

But regardless of that, Suh is happy with his decision, saying that he doesn’t regret it for a minute. It is just one more thing that Bo Pelini likes about Suh.

"He's got tremendous character," the coach said. "He's a leader on and off the field. He handles himself right. The guys respond well to him. Everybody in the locker room respects him for who he is, how he plays and everything he represents.

"This didn't need to happen for him to become a leader, but guys see that basically, he's walking away from a lot of money to come back and help lead this program."

Keep the faith, GBR, out!