Nebraska Football: 5 Players the Huskers Will Miss Most in 2013
Nebraska Cornhuskers football fans, like all college fans, are used to seeing their heroes graduate and move on. It's one reason why college football fans, more than NFL fans, learn to cheer for the uniform rather than the players.
Nebraska will lose 11 starters to graduation in 2013. Here are the five graduating seniors that NU will miss the most.
Breaking in a new center is never easy, and Justin Jackson's graduation means Nebraska will once again have a new starting center leading the offensive line in 2013.
Given how well he played down the stretch, and that he earned the job when Jackson was injured against Iowa, look for Cole Pensick to have the inside track for the starting center position next season.
But it would be a luxury to have a returning center with experience given the rest of the offensive talent returning in 2013.
At the start of last season, Daimion Stafford was tabbed as a leader on a defensive unit that was looking to bounce back after a subpar 2011 campaign.
The defense did not make the kind of advances in 2012 that were hoped for, but Stafford's experience and playmaking ability will still be something Nebraska will need to replace next season.
Will Compton had his limitations in terms of speed and lateral quickness, but year by year he improved in his tackling, play recognition and assignment coverage. By his senior year, he was a crucial cog in the middle of Nebraska's defense, providing back-side coverage, stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback when called upon.
With Nebraska breaking in an entirely new corps of running backs in 2013, Compton's experience and leadership may be the most underrated miss from the class of 2012.
While Nebraska has a number of question marks coming into 2013, possibly the biggest one is at defensive tackle.
Baker Steinkuhler was tasked with being the "next guy" in the middle of the defensive line, following Ndamukong Suh and Jared Crick. While he may not have lived up to those lofty expectations, Steinkuhler was clearly the class of Nebraska's interior defensive line.
When Steinkuhler was lost to injury against Iowa, the Children of the Corn could really see how his absence affected the performance of Nebraska's front four.
In 2013, Nebraska will be pinning its hopes on a number of younger players to fill the gaps in the middle of the defensive line. In watching the growing pains of those younger defensive tackles, Nebraska will really feel the absence of Steinkuhler.
It wasn't hard to guess who was going to be first on this list, was it? Rex Burkhead's injury against Southern Mississippi in the first game of the 2012 season seemed particularly cruel in watching the Capital One Bowl, where Nebraska fans caught a glimpse of what a healthy Burkhead would look like.
Sure, Nebraska has depth at running back. But Ameer Abdullah has an uncomfortable history with fumbles. Braylon Heard and Imani Cross are full of potential but have little experience. Incoming freshmen Terrell Newby and Adam Taylor have thrilled all the recruit-niks, but they haven't signed yet and haven't set foot on campus.
So Nebraska without Burkhead should be good at running back. But Nebraska with Burkhead, and his amazing ability, experience and leadership, would have been amazing.
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