Even though Nebraska football is still awaiting a New Year’s Day bowl matchup with Georgia, it’s never too early to look forward to next year. While Nebraska will have a lot of returning talent, particularly on offense, there are a number of positions which will need help either from untested talent on the roster or from impact recruits. Here are the five areas most in need of reinforcements.
In the B1G title game against Wisconsin, the Cornhuskers' lack of depth at defensive tackle was thoroughly exposed by the Badgers. The injury to Baker Steinkuhler left Nebraska to the point where defensive end Cameron Meredith was forced to move inside, giving up nearly 100 pounds to the Wisconsin offensive linemen he was trying to get past.
Thaddeus Randle and Chase Rome will likely have the first opportunity to start, although Vincent Valentine spent the year redshirting and should push hard for playing time next spring.
If there’s one thing Nebraska is deep on in the roster, it’s guards. But tackles are the problem. Nebraska will return three tackles—Jeremiah Sirles, Brent Qvale, and Andrew Rodriguez—with any significant playing experience. The emergence of a true standout talent at tackle on the current roster would be a major development in the offseason. None of Nebraska’s current recruiting commits project to play tackle, so look for NU to work the junior college ranks hard to fill the spot.
In 2012, Nebraska was blessed to have two remarkable talents in Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed. Both Cotton and Reed will move on, leaving Jake Long as the only experienced tight end. Nebraska has also lost Vince Marrow, who was acting as NU’s de facto tight ends coach, to Kentucky.
The Cornhuskers did get a commit from tight end-recruit Greg Hart to help with depth and youth at the position.
When Justin Jackson went down during the Iowa game, third-string center Mark Pelini was pressed into service because Cole Pensick was one of Nebraska’s most trusted performers at center. Pensick did get the nod to start for Nebraska in the B1G title game and looks to be the favorite to win the job next season.
But behind Pensick and Pelini—neither of whom have been convincing in limited action—is a big question at the most important position on the offensive line.
Over the last few years, the Children of the Corn have been spoiled with consistency and stability from their kicker. But with Brett Maher graduating, the reins will now formally be handed to Mauro Bondi. Given Nebraska’s history, it is fair to assume that Bondi will be tasked with punting, place-kicking and kickoff duties. But we haven’t seen Bondi kick a ball in anger, and do not have any real idea of who will be behind him on the depth chart.
Oh, and long snapper P.J. Mangierei will also be graduating, likely handing the duties to Joseph Rotherham. With inexperience at kicker and long snapper, Nebraska’s kicking game could be an adventure in 2013.
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