Prince Amukamura. Alfonzo Dennard. Eric Hagg. DeJon Gomes.
Under Bo Pelini, Nebraska has enjoyed great success in recruiting and developing elite defensive backs. While NU struggled in all defensive areas last year, Nebraska has been excellent as a pass defense unit, ranking fifth nationally in 2010 and 18th in 2009.
But all the defensive backs that helped make Nebraska’s pass defense so good are now gone. So what will become of Nebraska’s back four? Was 2011’s defensive struggle the new normal for the Blackshirts? Or will NU bounce back defensively and return to greatness? While this space isn’t always where to look for sunshine and rainbows about Nebraska football, here are some reasons the Children of the Corn should be optimistic about NU’s secondary in 2012.
Here are some reasons the Children of the Corn should be optimistic about NU’s secondary in 2012.
Junior College Transfers
While Pelini may not have proved himself yet as a recruiter in general, there is no question he has enjoyed great success in mining the junior college ranks. An argument could be made that Lavonte David has been the best (or at least most productive) Pelini recruit.
Daimion Stafford quickly established himself as a stalwart at safety last year, and he looks to improve his production in 2012. And, by all reports, Mohammed Seisay looks like a lock to be a starting cornerback next year. So, given Pelini’s track record, it’s fair to say that he knows how to bring in instant impact talent.
Pelini isn’t afraid to move players around, either to fill holes or maximize talent. Last year, wide receiver Stanley Jean-Baptiste moved to cornerback and got a crucial interception against Ohio State to help Nebraska seal its 21-point comeback victory.
This year, Braylon Heard has moved from running back to defensive back, although part of that motivation may have been the logjam at running back that was partially cleared by Aaron Green’s transfer. But in terms of maintaining the level of play in the secondary, Pelini has a history of finding athletes on his squad and using them to plug holes in the roster.
While there were a number of reasons for Nebraska’s defensive struggles last year, a primary culprit was injuries that forced a shuffle in the starting lineup. Dennard’s early-season struggles meant that Nebraska had to work on the fly to find the right combination of starting cornerbacks. Those efforts had mixed success, combining Jean-Baptiste’s heroics against Ohio State with Corey Cooper’s uninspiring experiment against Wyoming.
Of course, injuries are always a risk. But assuming Nebraska is able to get through fall camp with clear starters at all the secondary positions emerging, then NU should be able to benefit from the continuity that comes from starters working together as a unit. If Nebraska can avoid the catastrophic injuries of 2011, the secondary has a much better chance to improve.
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