Michael Rose-Ivey’s knee injury has left a hole in the center of the Huskers’ defense. Thanks to a torn MCL, the redshirt sophomore linebacker from Kansas City will stay on the sideline for the entire 2014 season of Nebraska football.
What coaches Bo Pelini and Ross Els will be looking to replace statistically is seven starts, 66 total tackles, a pass breakup and two quarterback hurries.
Thankfully, the coaches have options.
Trevor Roach sat out 2013 due to a foot injury during the summer. Prior to that, he was able to contribute minimally in 2011 and 2012 with 10 games played and 12 tackles in total.
Having been in the Pelini defensive system for four years certainly gives him something to build on during fall camp.
“He’s played a lot of football for us. He’s a good football player.” Pelini said of Roach (Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star)
Another option for the middle linebacker spot would be David Santos.
No. 41 started ten games as a sophomore for the Blackshirts. Of those ten, four starts came at MIKE while he played the other six on the outside.
Santos was second on the team in tackles with 87, just shy of Corey Cooper’s 91. It’s interesting that his two best performances came while he started in the middle: 12 total tackles against Wyoming and 13 against Minnesota (his final start at MIKE).
Obviously with a completely healthy linebacking corps, Pelini’s ideal situation would have Santos manning the BUCK spot with Rose-Ivey in the middle as it was No. 15 who usurped the starting job last year and pushed Santos outside.
That’s how the Huskers had been practicing this fall prior to the unfortunate injuries.
Reviewing the practice reports, more often than not Santos and Zaire Anderson have played with a first team manned by Josh Banderas at the MIKE position.
He’s my clear favorite to start the season there.
The Lincoln Southwest High School product opened 2013 as the top middle ‘backer, starting three of the first four games. On the season, he notched 28 tackles after playing in all 13 games.
The production earned him a spot on the True Freshman All-American team by 247Sports and honorable mention Big Ten All-Freshman honors from BTN.
Banderas has to, and will be, the man for the Husker football defense. At 6’2” and 235 pounds, he fits the physical bill. The biggest question is how comfortable is he with the mental part of the game?
His fellow competitor Trevor Roach said told Steven M. Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star that the “middle linebacker makes all the check calls.”
This is where Banderas has the edge on Roach. He has the starting experience that Roach doesn’t. This also allows Santos to also get on the field and bring his experience opposite Anderson on the outside.
A full compliment of linebackers that know the system, even sans Rose-Ivey, will be big for Pelini and Els as they work on their defensive rotation.
Roach has played all three positions and adds depth along with youngsters Marcus Newby and Courtney Love.
This competition will continue through fall camp and it won’t be a surprise to read more practice reports noting further rotation.
However, for my money, Banderas is the best option.
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