Filling a Suh Sized Hole: Nebraska Plans To Replace By Committee
The name resonates of motivation, tenacity, and greatness. It's a name that will fit in Nebraska lore with the likes of Rich Glover, Grant Wistrom, Trev Alberts, and the Peters Brothers.
The name became bigger than the game in 2009, and helped resurrect a once once proud Blackshirt tradition at Nebraska.
When people look back at the turnaround under Bo Pelini one name will ring in their minds: Ndamukong Suh.
At the beginning of the 2009 season only Husker fans knew how to pronounce the young man's first name, even supposed professional broadcasters had problems with the pronunciation and stuck to cliche terms like "Big Mr. Suh" or "The House of Spears" (which is the translation of his name).
By the end of 2009 though, this once difficult name was pronounced correctly in every household that talked about college football across the nation.
Suh became one of the most decorated defensive linemen in the history of the game winning the Bednarik, Lombardi, Bronko Nagurski, and Outland trophies as well as being named as the Big 12 Player of the Year and the Associated Press Player of the Year in 2009.
Yes, I know this may look like another Suh-love-fest by a hardcore Nebraska fan and even if that is so on the surface I am saying all these things to make a specific point.
That point is that Ndamukong Suh is irreplaceable for the Husker defense in 2010 even if Husker fans do believe that Bo Pelini is the best defensive mind in college football.
You can't lose a player like Suh and expect to reload at that specific position or on that side of ball in one season let alone overnight.
That though, is what college football coaches are asked to do year in and year out. In the NFL they can resign players like Suh and keep them around as long as they are willing to pay them, but in college you got four years with a player.
Out of those four years most college athletes won't make any significant contributions until their junior and senior seasons, as was the case for Suh.
So after two years of dominance in the middle, who is to replace Suh at the now infamous defensive tackle position?
Some say Jared Crick is the next "Suh," and while there is no doubting Crick is talented, it is still yet to be seen what he can do without Suh next to him garnering most of the attention.
Baker Steinkuhler has talent and the body type needed to make a significant impact, but can he use his hands and leverage as effectively as Suh?
Ultimately it is unfair to compare any of next year's defensive linemen to the likes of Suh, but we all know that something must be done to replace the Suh-Sized hole left in the middle of the defensive line.
So how do you replace a man named Suh?
It isn't easy but if it is done effectively we might not see as big of a drop-off as we would have expected.
The key to replacing Suh is having a defensive tackle by committee approach. Keeping the offensive line off balance as to who will be in in what situations.
Believe it or not Jared Crick and Bake Steinkuhler aren't the only viable options at those positions for Huskers.
Other players like Terrence Moore, freshman Jay Guy, and Chase Rome are ready to step in contribute at any moment.
Nebraska will need to rely heavily on their defensive end depth this season. Pierre Allen, Cameron Meredith, Jasan Ankrah, and many more will need to step up from the outside in to alleviate the pressure on the defensive tackle position.
Bo Pelini himself said that it is impossible to replace man for man what Suh was able to do for Nebraska, but perhaps players like the aforementioned, Lavonte David, and some other newcomers will be able to provide a boost where there wasn't one before.
Nebraska will need to focus on their depth and numbers instead of on the sheer talent of one individual to offset at least some of the missing components of losing a guy like Ndamukong Suh.
One thing for sure is that the man can't be replaced, but new players, new attitudes, and new schemes can step up and make this defense better than many think next season.
It will be a different defense, the question is will it be worse or better?
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