Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Three Husker Football Defenders Poised For Big Things In 2014

The defense that Husker football will field this year has the opportunity to be very special. Not only is there a legitimate playmaker at each level of the defense, but this may also be one of the more athletic ones that Bo Pelini’s pieced together.

Here’s a perfect example of one defender from each unit that could help turn Nebraska’s fortunes around in 2014.

If there’s one superstar on the defensive line, it’s undoubtedly Randy Gregory. He’s on just about everyone’s top 10 2015 NFL draft prospect list, checking in at the No. 3 spot on Mel Kiper’s big board. Gregory could end up being one of the most dominant defensive linemen in recent Husker history if he can build on his 2013 season.

Last year, he tallied 19 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. I wouldn’t be surprised if Gregory flirted with both records (15 sacks and 25 TFL, both numbers held by Jim Skow from the 1983 season).

I expect very big things out of Gregory along with him becoming the Big Ten’s first top 10 NFL draft pick since 2008.

The linebacker position has been an issue the last couple of seasons, but those problems will lessen this year as Michael Rose takes the next step in his Nebraska career. Rose put up very promising numbers during his redshirt freshman season with 66 tackles in 12 games (a freshman record).

Whose record did he break? Barrett Ruud‘s. Ruud’s mark of 49 tackles in was set in 2001.

Rose put up an impressive 17 tackles against Iowa, the most by a Husker defender since Lavonte David had the same number against Michigan in 2011. When you’re a linebacker for the Big Red and your name is alongside the likes of Lavonte David and Barrett Ruud, you’re doing something right.

Rose has brought back hope for what looked like a very weak Nebraska linebacking corps.

The secondary was a real strength last season, but with the departure of both Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Ciante Evans, there is some doubt as to who will step up and become the leader of this group.

Josh Mitchell has both the attitude and skill to step into that position.

What Mitchell lacks in size, he makes up in confidence and then some. He is predicting big things for this upcoming season, and that’s putting it lightly.

Last season, Mitchell stood at 5’11” and weighed in at 160 pounds. He claimed he would like to play his senior season at 170-175 pounds. With that added size and his natural athleticism, Mitchell could be in for a big spike in production.

The 2013 season was not all he had hoped it would be as he had only one interception and six pass breakups. One thing Mitchell did better than just about everyone was talk. It’s well-documented that he likes to jaw and uses it as a tactic against opponents.

If he continues to develop, look for a big 2014 campaign. Who knows? Maybe his prediction of being the best cornerback in the Big Ten will come true.

This season is obviously a huge year for this program in general and it finally looks like the defense will be a big strength again. The Blackshirts could truly be back and if that’s the case, a trip to Indianapolis isn’t too hard to imagine.

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