2013 Nebraska Cornhuskers Defensive Preview
The safety position will have two new starters for the 2013 season. P.J. Smith graduated, and Daimion Stafford is off to the next level after being drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the seventh round during April’s NFL Draft. Junior Harvey Jackson returns with minimal playing experience but is considered to be a frontrunner to start this fall. Junior Corey Cooper has a few starts under his belt, and just like Jackson may have the experience advantage.
Incoming freshmen including Nathan Gerry (Sioux Falls, SD) (Washington HS) and D.J. Singleton (Jersey City, NJ) (St. Peter’s Prep HS) have the opportunity for playing time as true freshmen. Drake Martinez (Laguna Beach, CA) (Laguna Beach HS), the younger brother of starting quarterback Taylor Martinez, will presumably be redshirting. As a freshman, Charles Jackson was a major contributor on special teams but this year will make the transition from corner over to safety. Look for the sophomore to play a key role in the safety battle.
The cornerback position is the strength of the defense. There are experienced seniors at the position including Ciante Evans, Andrew Green, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Josh Mitchell, and Mohammed (Mo) Seisay. Each of these guys has started at some point in their careers. Evans started each game a year ago and will be relied upon heavily to defend the opposing teams go to guy. Green played in every game last year as well.
Jean-Baptiste is a big strong corner who converted from wide receiver and has made a good transition with the position change. Mitchell is undersized but has proven himself worthy of locking down receivers. Seisay played little last season with an ankle injury bothering him but the coaches raved about him before his injury with the physicality they saw out of him. If Seisay is healthy expect him to contribute in big ways this season.
Behind all the experienced guys is redshirt sophomore Jonathan Rose who transferred from Auburn. Rose is very talented and he may play a big role this season. He was in the top ten among cornerbacks in his class nationally. Expect the unit that gave quarterbacks trouble in 2012 to continue the trend of dealing fits to their completion percentage.
This year’s linebacking core in Lincoln is one filled with minimal experience and an abundance of youth. Junior Trevor Roach has the most experience of any returning backer. Sophomore David Santos gained a lot of experience late in the season when injuries began to impact the defense. Santos proved that he can be valuable to the Husker defense. He will be improved from the experience gained from a season ago. Another experienced linebacker is Zaire Anderson who was injured after one quarter of play against Arkansas State in 2012. Zaire is a monster and is seen by the coaches to have maximum play making potential.
Behind Roach and Anderson youth surrounds the position with redshirt freshmen Jarred Afalava and Michael Rose. Afalava will compete for playing time because of his athleticism. Rose was highly touted coming out of high school and has all the talent in the world. With Rose it’s just a matter of him learning the defense and using his speed to make up for the lack of experience. Incoming freshman Josh Banderas (Lincoln, NE) (Lincoln Southwest HS) is without a doubt the top recruit from last year’s recruiting class and he may break the Pelini redshirt tradition and find his way onto the field, possibly on special teams. Another incoming freshman is Marcus Newby (North Potomac, MD) (Quince Orchard HS). Newby also has plenty of talent but he is more likely to receive a redshirt from Pelini. Expect the linebacking core to be very young but grow together throughout the year and begin to be consistent by seasons end.
Other than at linebacker, the defensive line is the most inexperienced part of the defense. Baker Steinkuhler and Eric Martin are now trying to make NFL squads and Chase Rome departed from the program earlier this year. That leaves the Huskers with Senior defensive end Jason Ankrah. He will need to take a leadership role in 2013. Senior Thad Randle also returns as an experienced d lineman who has played in big games for the Huskers. Randle certainly could be a mentor for younger players who could see action this season.
Juniors Donavan Vestal, Tobi Okuyemi, and Jay Guy have been injured most of their careers in Lincoln and haven’t contributed much. They will finally have their opportunity to turn some heads. Younger players like Kevin Williams, Avery Moss, Aaron Curry, and Greg McMullen will bring energy and athleticism to the defensive line.
Junior College transfer and pass rushing specialist Randy Gregory has plenty of talent to bring to the table and he could be the guy to fill the void left by Eric Martin. Expect the defensive line to face some growing pains, but much like the linebacking core gain consistency as the season rolls along.
This is without question the weaker side of the football for the Huskers. Last year they had several humiliating performances. Expect the secondary to force turnovers and save the Huskers in a few games. The linebackers are a young group with inexperience that will have growing pains as will the defensive line. Also expect the defense by season’s end to play together as a unit that can put up a good fight against anyone who steps in front of them.