Going into the 2011 season, Nebraska had three potential All-Americans at each level of the defense: defensive tackle Jared Crick, former JUCO linebacker Lavonte David and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard.
Only David ended up winning All-American honors, but Nebraska still lost star power and talent. Nebraska has slowly been building talent on the defensive line with star recruits like Chase Rome and Todd Peat Jr., but the backfield and linebacking corps were suffering.
With the loss of David and Dennard, only LB Will Compton and CB Andrew Green have enough experience to be considered locks and leaders at their positions.
Nebraska landed two JUCO transfers, LB Zaire Anderson and CB Mohammed Seisay, to help this gap. JUCOs under Pelini don't come in just to add depth. Pelini only brings in playmakers. Players like Dejon Gomes, Ricky Henry, Brandon Kinnie, Yoshi Hardirck and Lavonte David all were JUCOs that made big impacts on Nebraska with their playmaking abilities.
So with two high ranked JUCO transfers coming to Nebraska, which JUCO will make the biggest impact?
Both Anderson and Seisay are top level JUCOs; Nebraska had to fend off several top schools like Oklahoma, Arkansas and TCU to land them. There is no question that both have playmaking skills.
At first glance, Anderson seems to have an easier path to a starting spot, all three of Nebraska's projected starting LBs, Compton, Fisher and Whaley are seniors, but only Compton is a full-time starter from last year.
Throw in redshirt freshmen Santos, Trevor Roach and Max Pirman, and possibly one of the three incoming freshman linebackers of Michael Rose, Jared Afalava and Jordan Brown and there is talent, but all are young and without any experience. Enter Anderson.
Anderson can enter into this competition and immediately play for a starting spot. He will compete against Whaley and Fisher and will most likely win a spot, and Fisher and Whaley will probably share playing time at the other side until one emerges as the better one.
Anderson could have the same immediate impact that Lavonte David had. A tough player that quickly emerged as a leader and playmaker. With the move to the Big Ten, Nebraska needs immediate playmakers at the linebacker position. Anderson can be that player for the next two years and help lead the freshman linebackers.
At the cornerback spot, Seisay had been getting all the hype. Tom Dienhart of Big Ten Network named Seisay as one the top newcomers to watch. In spring practice, Seisay graduated early to participate, and immediately competed for the starting spot. Which, according to defensive backs coach Terry Joseph, is down to Seisay, Green, and senior Antonio Bell.
Pelini's defenses work the best when the cornerbacks and defensive backs can shut down the receivers to allow the defensive line to get to the quarterback. Nebraska struggled against the pass at times last year, as the starting spot opposite Dennard, and when Dennard was hurt, rotated until Green emerged as the better of the bunch.
Seisay is a player that Nebraska needs and probably is the player Nebraska fans are most excited about. Seisay can most likely land the starting spot with Green opposite him and shut down receivers.
The Michigan State and Iowa games are the best example of Pelini's defense at work. Green and Dennard shut down the Spartans and Hawkeyes and the Huskers beat them both by double digits, and this was against two of the top receivers in Cunnigham and McNutt.
Seisay comes to a position that is lacking in depth and star power, and is a position that Pelini seems to coach well as several defensive backs under Pelini have gone on to the NFL, like Prince Amukamara, Eric Hagg, Larry Asante and others.
Nebraska did land the No. 2 overall cornerback in the 2011 class, Charles Jackson, but he did not qualify till this April. But Nebraska is getting some talented defensive backs in both the last recruiting class and this one. Seisay can have the same impact as Anderson, immediate playmaker and then help coach and lead the younger players.
Both Anderson and Seisay are playmakers that will come in and make immediate impact on Nebraska. But I will give the edge to Seisay. Nebraska's defense works the best when there is a shutdown cornerback keeping the passing game down and the defensive line can get to the quarterback.
That's not to say Anderson won't make an impact, but Seisay should make the biggest.
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