Nebraska football fans were, on the whole, ready to let the 2012 season go and look forward to 2013. Many Nebraska fans had penciled in a Rose Bowl appearance but had to break out the erasers after Wisconsin dismantled NU in the B1G title game. Nebraska avoided another national embarrassment, hanging with Georgia for three quarters before falling 45-31.
The defense was clearly Nebraska’s biggest issue in 2012, with NU surrendering an average of 53.5 points and 595 yards in its four losses (as observed by the Omaha World-Herald’s Dirk Chatelain).
Put into context, in Nebraska's seven-loss season in 2007 which ended with the firing of head coach Bill Callahan and was widely regarded as the worst defense in recent Nebraska memory, NU surrendered an average of 48.6 points and 530 yards per game in defeat.
So looking at Nebraska’s defensive depth chart for 2013 is a bit of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, Nebraska looks to be starting a number of younger players and players with little experience. On the other hand, Nebraska will be putting a lot more speed and athleticism on the field.
While this combination could make for some cringe-worthy moments, a relatively soft 2013 schedule (with UCLA and Northwestern at home as Nebraska’s main obstacles prior to playing Michigan in Ann Arbor in Game 9) should give the new defensive unit time to learn on the job and develop its potential.
So, here is a far-too-early projection of Nebraska’s 2013 defensive depth chart. Keep in mind this is done before Nebraska’s recruiting class is complete, which could see additional playmakers added to the mix.
Returning starters (few though they may be) are noted in italics.
Nebraska’s defensive line was the most maligned unit throughout the 2012 season, and a number of new faces should see playing time in 2013. Vincent Valentine will get his opportunity to show the value of his redshirt season, while junior college transfer Randy Gregory should see significant playing time right away.
Defensive tackle is still a position of need, and a number of unproven players will be vying for playing time. The coaching staff will also be pushing hard to sign an impact interior defensive line prospect for the 2013 recruiting class.
DE – Jason Ankrah, Randy Gregory, Walker Ashburn
DE – Avery Moss, Greg McMullin, Donovan Vestal
DT – Chase Rome, Kevin Williams, Tobi Okuyemi
DT – Vincent Valentine, Thaddeus Randle, Jay Guy
Nebraska’s linebacker corps will see a complete overhaul with NU’s three starting linebackers from 2012 graduating. This could end up as a benefit for Nebraska, as the likely replacements will bring more speed and athleticism to the field. The question will be whether the increase in speed will be offset by the mistakes sure to be made due to inexperience—mistakes which can result in long scoring plays for an opponent.
Also, don't forget that while the projection lists three linebackers, look for Nebraska to continue with the nickel/peso in 2013 with a hybrid linebacker/safety filling in for one or two linebacker spots.
MIKE – David Santos, Michael Rose, Trevor Roach, Josh Banderas
WILL – Zaire Anderson, Thomas Brown, Marcus Newby
BUCK – Jared Afalava, Max Pirman, Thomas Brown
Like at linebacker, Nebraska will have a dramatic new look in its secondary due to graduation. Nebraska will be particularly hard hit at safety, so look for some players currently listed at cornerback to shift positions to safety.
With so many spots open, and so much possibility for position changes, the secondary is the defensive area hardest to forecast.
Look for impacts from Mohammed Seisay, a junior college transfer from last year coming off an injury, and Jonathan Rose, who has sat out his year of ineligibility after transferring from Auburn. Spring practice, along with the completion of the 2013 recruiting class, could end up having a huge impact on what this depth chart will look like next August.
So, what will Nebraska's defense be like in 2013?
S – Harvey Jackson, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Seth Jameson
S – Mohammed Seisay, Corey Cooper, Wil Richards
CB – Andrew Green, Ciante Evans, LeRoy Alexander
CB – Jonathan Rose, Charles Jackson, Josh Mitchell
NICKEL/PESO – Corey Cooper, Ciante Evans, Thomas Brown
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