With the season kicking off in just five days, we wanted to evaluate a few topics from fall camp and look forward to possible starters on The Nebraska Cornhuskers defensive line. I caught up with staff writers Joshua Shaw and Leland Johnson to get their thoughts during our weekly Corner Table discussion.
John Ackeren: It looks like the rotation at defensive end might be set, but several players will rotate at defensive tackle to start the season. Which DT’s do you think will set themselves apart and be starters by the UCLA game?
Leland Johnson: It’s tough to say what will play out on the defensive line this season. Bo Pelini tends to change his defensive approach throughout the season, trying new strategies with the defensive alignment and personnel. If I have to pick one guy I’m most excited to see take the field it has to be Vincent Valentine. At 6’3″, 325 lbs I can’t wait to see his huge body punishing the oppositions line. I imagine teams double teaming Valentine, allowing opportunities for his fellow lineman and the linebacking crew to make plays. As far as which guys will nail down starting jobs by the UCLA game, I don’t expect to learn to much against over matched opponents in the first two weeks. I’d bet the UCLA game is when we will learn a few things about this year’s Blackshirts.
Joshua Shaw: I think we will see Thad Randle get the first shot at earning the starting spot. There is also potential for Maliek Collins or Aaron Curry to work there way into a starting role. Jay Guy and Toby Okuyemi will also be in the mix. I am interested to see if converted offensive lineman Broderick Nickens will play. The X Factor of the group is Vincent Valentine. The coaching staff says his ceiling is very high. Personally, I think Thad Randle and Maliek Collins will earn the spots by the time the UCLA game rolls around.
John Ackeren: Defensive coordinator John Papuchis has hinted that Josh Banderas, Nathan Gerry, Maliek Collins, and Kevin Maurice are four freshman that will see playing time in 2013. Which one of them will have the biggest impact this year?
Joshua Shaw: Expect to be impressed by Josh Banderas. The coaching staff has raved about him. They say he is picking everything up and they like his intangibles.
Leland Johnson: It appears Nathan Gerry has brought the South Dakota “tough guy” work ethic with him to Nebraska. He’s received high praise from both J. P. and secondary coach Terry Joseph during interviews this fall. At 6′ 2″, 210 lbs Gerry’s size and speed should get him onto the playing field early and often this year. With all the talk that Pelini will be utilizing younger players on defense, Gerry appears to be a player to benefit from this strategy. Google Gerry’s name and check the images, then you’ll see what I’m talking about, the guys a football specimen.
John Ackeren: Let’s wrap up the conversation by looking at the offense. This unit should be a monster, but there are always areas that need improvement. What position group concerns you most heading into the season?
Leland Johnson: Nebraska’s offensive attack will surely be exciting to watch this season. It’s full of speedsters led by four year starting quarterback Taylor Martinez. I’ve always been a Martinez supporter, and typically you can always hang your hat on senior leaders. Therein lies the problem. If Martinez were to get injured on any of the many attempts he makes each game, the Huskers would be left without an experienced quarterback. Senior Ron Kellogg, who has played in four games, would likely get the call. Redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong is likely the quarterback of the near future, but let’s just hope it’s not this season. Martinez’s health will be the key to the Husker offense this season.
Joshua Shaw: The only glaring issue at the moment has to be the uncertainty at the Tight End position. They are replacing both Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed. True freshman Cethan Carter has been getting high praise throughout camp so we will likely see him on the field this fall. I do question the health of Jake Long who is coming off an injury. The depth is there, but all the inexperience is worrisome.