Nebraska Football: Projecting the Cornhuskers' 2-Deep at Every Position

Brandon Cavanaugh@ IApril 26, 2011

Nebraska Football: Projecting the Cornhuskers' 2-Deep at Every Position

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    With spring football over, the Nebraska Cornhuskers turn their attention to memorizing the new playbook, following their tiresome weight regimens and perfecting their craft via drills and repetition.

    The newest crop of recruits will find their way into Lincoln over the coming months and start to work their way into the system.

    Even though the 2011 season doesn’t start for five months, there’s an outline of how the depth chart is starting to look following Nebraska’s Red-White scrimmage.

    How would the Cornhusker depth chart look if the season began tomorrow?


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    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    Starter: Taylor Martinez

    Backup: Brion Carnes

    This will be a fierce battle that likely see-saws throughout summer and well into fall.

    Martinez was clearly Bo Pelini’s guy heading into the 2010 season and barring further injury to his ankle will start versus UT-Chattanooga.

    The question is: How long can he keep the starting job?

    Brion Carnes is going to push Martinez hard and if he gets an opportunity to shine versus non-conference competition, the opportunity is there to snatch the starting spot away from T-Magic.

    If Carnes takes hold of the offense’s reins, he probably won’t be giving them up.

Running Back

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    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    Starter: Rex Burkhead

    Backup: Braylon Heard/Aaron Green/Ameer Abdullah

    Burkhead is firmly entrenched as the starter and stands as the heart and soul of Nebraska’s offense heading into their first year as members of the Big Ten conference.

    The backup role is going to be defined by fall camp.

    Three backs will likely be jockeying for two spots behind Burkhead with the fourth on the depth chart redshirting.


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    Starter: Tyler Legate

    Backup: Colin McDermott

    Much like Burkhead, Legate’s got his position on lockdown.

    No one on the roster can match the senior’s knack for the fullback spot, but if someone did have to come in and take over, McDermott would be that guy.

Wide Receiver (1)

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    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    Starter: Brandon Kinnie

    Backup: Stanley Jean-Baptiste

    The Fort Scott Community College duo will see plenty of each other on the field this upcoming season.

    In sets that require four and five wide receivers, Kinnie and Jean-Baptiste will both be present, but in running formations, Kinnie gets the nod due to experience.

    Having two receivers standing 6’3” and hovering around 220 pounds at this spot is a good problem to have for offensive coordinator Tim Beck.

Wide Receiver (2)

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    Starter: Jamal Turner

    Backup: Kenny Bell

    Defenders are going to have to turn on their afterburners to catch this duo.

    Turner and Bell are easily two of the fastest members of the roster and they also have four of the best hands, so it should come as no surprise when they meet Kinnie and SJB in four receiver sets.

    Those who saw the Red-White game can tell you that Turner needs to be on the field and he will.

Tight End

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    Starter: Ben Cotton

    Backup: Kyler Reed

    Ben Cotton returns to help plow the way for Cornhusker running backs and perhaps contribute more in the passing game than he did in 2010.

    Cotton plays in the way of a traditional tight end while Reed is more of a speedster.

    As seen last year, Reed can streak downfield with the best of defenders and Nebraska would be foolish to stop chucking deep balls his way now.

Left Offensive Tackle

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    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    Starter: Jeremiah Sirles

    Backup: Marcel Jones

    Sirles performed admirably last year as a true freshman at the left tackle position.

    So well that Nebraska fans will be treated to his presence again.

    The veteran Marcel Jones will be around to help keep his legs fresh and defenders at bay.

Left Guard

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    Photo by Aaron Babcock

    Starter: Andrew Gonzalez

    Backup: Ryan Klachko/Ryne Reeves

    Rodriguez only received a handful of reps last year which was somewhat odd as he did perform well in limited minutes.

    This year, there’s no one standing between the massive Aurora, Nebraska native and a starting spot on the interior Nebraska line.

    True freshmen Ryan Klachko and Ryne Reeves will be here in the fall and waiting in the wings to get their hands dirty and smash heads with the opposition.


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    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    Starter: Mike Caputo

    Backup: Mark Pelini

    Caputo shouldn’t be able to perform as well as he does for his size.

    The squatty 6’1” 275-pound center makes the necessary calls and blocks more than well enough to be the anchor for Nebraska’s 2011 offensive line.

    His backup is a bit of a question mark, but referring back to Nebraska’s spring game, the player who appears most ready to take over if Caputo goes down has a similar frame and a very familiar last name.

Right Guard

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    Starter: Brent Qvale

    Backup: Ryan Klachko/Ryne Reeves

    Qvale has been in position to take this spot over for two years.

    Much like Rodriguez, it’s his time to shine.

    He’s built in the mold of past Nebraska offensive linemen. He’s big, mean and loves his job.

    Klachko and Reeves will be around to give him a hand if he needs a rest.

Right Tackle

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    Starter: Jermarcus Hardrick

    Backup: Marcel Jones

    While this could be a back-and-forth battle, Hardrick performed better as the 2010 season progressed.

    Jones has had the occasional issue with injury, but he’ll do well backing up Hardrick and providing an excellent bookend back up at both tackle positions.

Left Defensive End

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Starter: Josh Williams

    Backup: Joseph Carter

    Williams appears ready to have a breakout season and he’s one of the more seasoned members of a thin defensive end corps.

    Junior college transfer Joseph Carter will likely be slotted in behind him from day one of fall camp.

    Due to Pelini’s excellent selections out of the JUCO ranks, it’s very possible that Carter pushes Williams for playing time.

Left Defensive Tackle

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    Starter: Jared Crick

    Backup: Terrence Moore/Chase Rome

    Just one of the most recognizable names on the Nebraska defense, no one’s taking Crick’s spot from him.

    Terrence Moore played very well as a backup last season and Chase Rome performed admirably in limited snaps.

Right Defensive Tackle

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Starter: Baker Steinkuhler

    Backup: Terrence Moore/Chase Rome

    Steinkuhler’s spot is somewhat less solidified than Crick’s, but his name is penned in the depth chart at starter with dark ink.

    Terrence Moore could push him very hard in the fall and Chase Rome might see some time opposite Crick in blowout situations.

Right Defensive End

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    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    Starter: Cameron Meredith

    Backup: Jason Ankrah/Eric Martin (pass specialist)

    A mainstay at his position, Cameron Meredith enters his third season holding down the right side of Nebraska’s defensive line.

    Behind him, a talented but raw Jason Ankrah may finally be ready to make an impact, but Joseph Carter might slide over and butt him out.

    Look for Eric Martin to have several opportunities to crush quarterbacks on long second and third down situations.

BUCK (Strongside) Linebacker:

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    Starter: Graham Stoddard

    Backup: Mathew May

    Since Nebraska played in Pelini’s “Peso” defense for much of the 2010 season, a BUCK linebacker wasn’t in high demand.

    At the end of the season, Graham Stoddard was the man to call when one was needed, though.

    May has provided solid coverage in the past and will likely continue to do so at both the BUCK and MIKE roles, if necessary.

MIKE (Middle) Linebacker

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    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    Starter: Will Compton

    Backup: Sean Fisher

    Since his return from injury last year, Compton has played very well and is just the type of linebacker that Nebraska wants in the middle for Big Ten conference play.

    Sean Fisher looked as agile as ever during Nebraska’s spring scrimmage as he works to bounce back from a season-ending injury last fall.

    While Compton will likely wear the black practice jersey of a starting defender, he could get some snaps in coverage situations and to allow Compton time to rest.

WILL (Weakside) Linebacker

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    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    Starter: Lavonte David

    Backup: David Santos

    It’s safe to say that the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year will have his spot waiting for him.

    The player who backs him up is projected to be yet another pleasant surprise.

    While a true freshman, David Santos is built in a similar mold to David and while no one expects him to rack up 150-plus tackles, he has the potential to lay claim to Big Ten defensive honors.

Cornerback (1)

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    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    Starter: Alfonzo Dennard

    Backup: Antonio Bell

    Another season, another lockdown corner for the Nebraska secondary.

    With Alfonzo Dennard back, Nebraska has a known quantity and very physical enforcer at the top Cornerback position.

    Antonio Bell reminds some of a younger Dennard.

    He scored on a fumble return in the Red-White scrimmage and was flying all over the field making his presence felt.

    His effort will be rewarded come the fall.

Cornerback (2)

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    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    Starter: Ciante Evans

    Backup: Josh Mitchell

    While trying to select starting cornerbacks for the Nebraska secondary is like trying to pick what style of mansion you’d like to live in, there appears to be a youth movement happening.

    Last season, Ciante Evans burst onto the scene with a superb display of athleticism taking over for a briefly-injured Alfonzo Dennard.

    This season, Evans will lock down the spot opposite Dennard and a new young phenom, Josh Mitchell, will take his spot as the potential breakout cornerback.

    Mitchell wowed the audience at Nebraska’s spring scrimmage flying across the field and even raked in a quarterback sack thanks to his speed and defensive savvy.

Peso Back

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    Starter: Daimion Stafford

    Backup: P.J. Smith

    Like Carter, Stafford came from the junior college ranks to play now.

    Stafford does have a significant edge when it comes to raw athletic talent between the two, however.

    Much like former Cornhusker Eric Hagg, Stafford has the build to be the Pelini’s “Peso” back, a linebacker/safety hybrid used to roam the middle and upper portions of the field.

    Backing up Stafford will be P.J. Smith who looked to be the likely candidate to take over for Hagg before Nebraska signed Stafford.

Strong Safety

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    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    Starter: Courtney Osborne

    Backup: P.J. Smith

    Once Courtney Osborne took hold of the strong safety starting spot last season, he never let go.

    Thanks to his physical style and how well he took to then-secondary coach Marvin Sanders’ teachings, Osborne flourished as a sophomore and isn’t going to lose his starting spot.

    P.J. Smith will also handle the backup role as while he doesn’t have the necessary speed to line up at a deep cornerback position, he does have the physicality necessary to play safety.

Free Safety

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    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    Starter: Austin Cassidy

    Backup: Daimion Stafford

    One of the most cerebral players on Nebraska’s roster, Cassidy supplanted a former starter in 2010 and held onto his spot.

    His play is somewhat reminiscent of Matt O’Hanlon who had much success in Pelini’s defense with seven career interceptions (six as a senior.)

    Stafford will be an enforcer at the “Peso” role, but his pure athletic talent will serve him well at this spot should Cassidy need relief.


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    Starter: Mauro Bondi

    Backup: Brett Maher

    Maher looked pretty good during Nebraska’s spring scrimmage handling field goals, PATs, kickoffs and punts.

    He put together an impressive resume, but he’s going to have a very difficult time wrestling the starting job away from incoming recruit Mauro Bondi.

    Bondi boasts similar ability on kickoffs as 44 of his 55 boots went for touchbacks as a senior.

    It should be a tight race, but Bondi will likely take the competition by a nose.

    Maher will be a more-than-adequate backup, however.


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    Starter: Brett Maher

    Backup: Mauro Bondi

    Just because Maher can’t line up at kicker doesn’t mean he won’t participate.

    In an effort to replace Alex Henery’s punting abilities, Maher will perfect the art of pinning opponents back against their own end zones.

    He proved that he does have plenty of skill during the Red-White game with six punts averaging 49.3 yards with a long of 56 and one dropped inside the 20-yard line.

    Bondi will also be working on all aspects of his kicking game just in case the need for a backup arises.

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