Nebraska’s offense has gotten a lot of attention in the offseason, but the success of that offense will be affected by the quality of defenses it goes up against this season. We’ve taken a look at the five best quarterbacks Nebraska will see in 2012. Now, let’s take a look at the five best defenses Taylor Martinez and the Cornhuskers will match up against this season.
The Bruins’ defense has enough talent to cause any opponent problems, if new head coach Jim Mora Jr. can find a way to harness it. UCLA will be switching to a 3-4 defense in 2012, causing some changes for returning defensive linemen Datone Jones and Cassius Marsh. Returning linebackers Eric Kendricks and Patrick Larimore will have the opportunity in the new 3-4 scheme to become defensive playmakers.
The Bruins also return both starting cornerbacks in Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price, along with safety Tevin McDonald.
Urban Meyer may be known for his offense, but he inherits a strong defensive squad in Columbus. The Buckeyes return all four starters to their defensive line, including Third-Team All-American John Simon. The linebacker corps will be a rebuilding project, but Ohio State returns all of its starting secondary.
Sure, Penn State will be reeling from the effects of the NCAA sanctions levied earlier this summer. And sure, there has been a lot of talent that has transferred out of Happy Valley as a result.
But the Nittany Lions had the 20th-ranked defense in the country last year. Standouts Jordan Hill and Sean Stanley will return to bolster the Lions’ defensive line, as will First-Team All-B1G linebacker Gerald Hodges along with Glenn Carson.
Expect Penn State’s defense to be plenty stout when the Lions arrive in Lincoln.
When Brady Hoke arrived in Ann Arbor, Michigan’s defense was a mess. Hoke moved his players around, and the Wolverines’ defense responded admirably in his first season at the helm. Will Campbell will lead the defensive line, while team-leading tackler Kenny Demens will anchor the linebackers in the middle.
Michigan State had the sixth-ranked overall defense last year, and return a number of stars from that squad. Defensive end William Gholston leads the defensive line and a team that led the B1G with 45 sacks in 2011. The Spartans also return all three linebackers, as well as two-time all-B1G cornerback Johnny Adams.
Michigan State should provide the toughest defensive challenge for Nebraska in 2012.
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