As the season approaches and we all anticipate major improvement in the defense under Bo Pelini, we felt it was time to revisit some of the great defensive players of the last few decades.
We begin, in a way, where it ended, with Josh Bullocks, a player that thrived under Bo Pelini and Marvin Sanders but was also part of a defensive unit in 2004 that surrendered 70 points to Texas Tech (though the Husker offense played a role in that too).
In 2003, Josh Bullocks snared a record-10 interceptions from his free safety spot. On top of that, he returned a blocked punt for a touchdown and blocked a punt.
It’s not like he saved his big plays for the worst teams on the schedule. He had two picks against No. 24 Oklahoma State to open the season, then had picks against Southern Mississppi, Missouri, Texas A&M, No. 16 Texas, and Kansas State in the game that featured Bo Pelini’s famous confrontation with Bill Snyder.
His All-American honors that year were the last seen by a Husker defender.
A year later, under “new management,” Bullocks saw his number of tackles rise substantially to where he was second on the team in solo tackles (which isn’t necessarily what you want from your free safety).
His interceptions fell to just two, as the combination of a weaker pass rush up front, teams avoiding his area of the field, and no doubt some new responsibilities to adapt to made him far less dangerous to opposing teams.
When we think about what a transition from Kevin Cosgrove to Bo (or Carl) Pelini will be like, we can think about what the transition from Pelini to Cosgrove was in reverse.
Cosgrove’s defense made an All-American talent look like an honorable mention All-Big 12 player. Maybe a player like Larry Asante, Rickey Thenarse, Major Culbert, or Armando Murillo can emerge as the next Josh Bullocks.
The interception total might be too much to ask, but finding a playmaking safety would certainly be an upgrade from last year—and a step in the right direction.