Nebraska has a history with great defensive linemen. You may have heard of a few of them: Rich Glover, Grant Wistrom, Kyle Vanden Bosch and, most recently, Ndamukong Suh.
However, the defensive line did not look great last year, in fact I would say they underachieved. They could not get any pressure going with only 20 sacks, and finished the year ranked 70th against the run. Only one player on the defensive line had a notable year.
Cameron Meredith is a senior defensive end from California, and has been a starter for the last two years. Meredith is a great defensive end that can get off the edge and get to the quarterback, and he can stop the running back from getting to the outside too.
Meredith did not have a breakout year last year, but he was still Nebraska's top lineman. He recorded 5 sacks, second best behind Lavonte David, and even got an interception. ESPN also recently ranked Meredith as the 9th best defensive lineman in the Big Ten, and he was named to the Hendricks watchlist for top defensive end.
So with a decent year to build upon, and increasing national attention, can Meredith turn his final year into a breakout year? Can he become Nebraska's next great defensive lineman?
In order for that to happen, Meredith will need to make big plays every game. He dominated in several games last season, like the Chattanooga game where he recorded an interception and two sacks, but he needs to be a force to be reckoned with in every game.
He needs to be a player that offensive coordinators scheme around, like Suh was. He needs to dominate up front. If he can do that, that will free up other defensive linemen to make plays and the whole team can do much better.
Meredith has a couple things going for him on the coaching side of things. Nebraska hired Iowa's defensive line coach, Coach Kaz, who helped turn several Hawkeyes, like Ardrian Clayborn, into great players. At the same time, Bo Pelini has had success too in coaching defensive linemen, like Suh and Glenn Dorsey.
According to reports, Coach Kaz wants the D-line to spread out. This will help Meredith make plays. He is not as effective when on the inside, and this may help solve Nebraska's problems against mobile QBs. Having a lineman like Meredith on the outside can lead to more sacks against scrambling QBs or ones that move outside the pocket.
He can also help the run defense by sealing up that side of the line. If he can shed the block quickly, then he can get to the runner or at least delay him so someone else can get him.
Whether Meredith becomes the next great lineman falls on his shoulders. He has the tools, coaching and skills to become a great player, he just needs to utilize his talent to turn from a player that Husker fans know, to one that the nation knows.