Nebraska Football 2011: Jared Crick and 7 Most Pro-Ready Cornhuskers
As the Nebraska Cornhuskers climb back toward national prominence as a football program, the Big Red are starting to produce NFL-type players once again.
Guys like Ndamukong Suh and Prince Amukamara have been drafted in the first round the last couple of years and have been replaced by players who could get selected early in the draft as well.
With the 2011 season less than a week away, here is a look at Jared Crick and more pro-ready Huskers to keep an eye on this year.
Defensive tackle Jared Crick is considered a potential first-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft. While he is not the same kind of athlete that Ndamukong Suh was, Crick does have a great motor and is extremely productive.
The Husker senior will be the anchor of the Blackshirts this season and lead Nebraska to what they hope will be a campaign that ends with at least a conference championship.
Crick is 6'6'' and 285 pounds, so he may have to put on some weight to stay at defensive tackle in the NFL, but he could be the perfect size for a defensive end in a 3-4 scheme.
Since we started with a defensive tackle, we might as well stay at the position. Like Jared Crick, junior Baker Steinkuhler should find himself playing on Sundays as well.
While Steinkuhler is not the same type of pass rusher that Crick is, he seems to be the key to the Husker's run defense. Without Steinkuhler in their bowl game, Nebraska got run over by Washington's offense.
At 6'6" and 290 pounds, Baker Steinkuhler has the size and athleticism to play at the next level.
Lavonte David is an interesting case as far as pro-potential is concerned. There is no question David can play football as he stepped right in last year and starting playing at an All-American level pretty much right off the bat.
David can fly around the field from his middle linebacker spot and wreak havoc on opposing offenses. The question about David is his size. At 6'1" his height is not an issue, but he played last season at about 210 to 215 pounds which is more like the size of a safety in the NFL.
Reports are that Lavonte David has bulked up to around 225 pounds this year to help adjust to the more physical play he will face in the Big Ten. It remains to be seen how the extra weight will effect his speed and quickness to the ball.
If he can play at the same speed while carrying the extra pounds that will go a long way to proving he can hack it as a linebacker in the NFL.
My opinion is that David will be able to play with his added bulk and show scouts that he is an NFL-type player.
He may have to move to an outside linebacker spot at the next level, but when I watch Lavonte David play, there is no doubt in my mind that he is a professional football player.
Most teams losing someone as good as Prince Amukamara would probably be in major trouble in their secondary. That is not the case with Nebraska though as they still have cornerback Alfonzo Dennard to hold down the fort in the defensive backfield.
Dennard does not have the same impressive size that Amukamara possessed but he is considered almost as good of a prospect and might actually have better technical skills than his former teammate.
According to ESPN's Mel Kiper, Alfonzo Dennard is already considered one of the top 40 NFL prospects heading into the season.
At 6'3" tall and weighing in at 225 pounds, Brandon Kinnie has the kind of size that NFL teams salivate over in wide receivers. The problem with Kinnie is going to be whether or not he has enough production to get the attention of scouts.
Physically, there is no doubt in my mind that Brandon Kinnie has what it takes to play in the NFL. Whether or not Kinnie gets drafted will depend greatly on whether or not Nebraska's quarterbacks can get him the ball.
Unless the Huskers have much improved quarterback play in 2011, I see Brandon Kinnie's situation playing out in the same way that Niles Paul's did. An NFL team will draft him in the mid-rounds based on his physical tools despite his lack of production.
Kyler Reed is almost the exact same size as Brandon Kinnie (about 10 or so pounds heavier than the receiver) but is a physical specimen nonetheless. Reed fits the mold of the receiving-focused super athletic tight ends that the NFL is moving towards.
Reed still may need to put on a few pounds to be able to take the pounding as an NFL tight end, but he appears to have the frame to add the extra bulk required.
Nebraska's versatile tight end will be in the same boat as Brandon Kinnie as far as production is concerned.
The Husker's quarterbacks will have to be able to get Reed the ball in order for him to fulfill his potential as a professional prospect.
I expect Rex Burkhead to have a breakout season as he takes over the majority of the carries on offense and that should vault him onto the radars of NFL teams and scouts.
Burkhead has pretty good size to be an NFL back although he could probably stand to put on a few extra pounds of muscles. The nice thing about Burkhead as a professional prospect is that he has split carries to this point in his career (and will continue to do so to a certain extent) which means he will not have as many miles on his body when he gets to the league.
The best part about Burkhead as a running back is his toughness and aggressive running style. If he posts even satisfactory measureables at the NFL combine and his pro day, I expect Burkhead to get a serious look by NFL teams.