Just when things started to look good.
During a practice last week, Junior Linebacker Zaire Anderson tore his ACL during a practice, and is done for the year. Kinda amazing he still started even with a torn ACL. Nebraska is looking into and if possible, will seek a medical redshirt for Anderson.
Seriously? Just a few days after Nebraska fans think there might be some positive growth on the defensive side of the ball, Anderson goes down.
Anderson moved to the starting job at linebacker after the UCLA debacle on defense, replacing senior Alonzo Whaley. While Anderson did not put up earth shattering stats, he still provided a reliable player on defense, including a third down stop against Arkansas State.
With Anderson done, Nebraska will use Whaley and Sophomore Linebacker David Santos.
According to the Omaha World Herald, Whaley took his demotion in stride and has stepped up as a team leader. Whaley will play a big role in Nebraska's 4-3 defense, especially against power run teams like Wisconsin and Michigan State.
Santos on the other hand is more versatile and can play in Nebraska's nickel and dime packages, meaning he can stay on the field without having to make fast switches. Santos sounds like he will be used more against spread teams like Ohio State, Northwestern and Michigan.
Whether it is Santos or Whaley, Nebraska needs playmakers on defense. The defensive line is not getting much pressure on the quarterback, and they are struggling against the run.
Maybe it has something to do with lining up a yard off the line of scrimmage, but that's another issue. The defensive line also has a problem in depth, which is now down to five in the line rotation after injuries and departures.
The linebacking corps is also struggling in both run support and coverage. Middle linebacker Will Compton—the leader of the defense—has his moments at times, but in truth has not been great this year.
The only group that is doing well is the secondary which has been doing good things, but needs help from the other defensive groups.
With Anderson gone, someone needs to step up on defense. Someone on the team does so and becomes the playmaker that the Nebraska defense needs.
Nebraska gets Idaho State this week to tweak with the defense before beginning Big Ten play against Wisconsin and then Ohio State the week after.
Hopefully someone on the defense steps up before then, and the Blackshirts will return to prominence.