Huskers Spring Position Battles: Defensive Line


The vacancy of Randy Gregory at defensive end will no doubt be a noticeable one. He was a man amongst boys in terms of rushing the passer. Even though he is no longer in the Husker program, that doesn’t mean that folks should start worrying about about the 2015 Blackshirts. They will be quite alright! In fact, they could be down right NASTY!

Aug 30, 2014; Lincoln, NE, USA; Florida Atlantic Owls quarterback Greg Hankerson (6) is sacked by Nebraska Cornhuskers defensive end Jack Gangwish (95) during the second half at Memorial Stadium. Nebraska won 55-7. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Huskers return 3 of their starting 4 from a year ago. Greg McMullen, Vincent Valentine and Maliek Collins will have to be seriously pushed in order to lose their jobs. The front 4 is without a doubt the strength of this Nebraska team. The only concern facing this position group is what appears to be a lack of depth at the position.

With limited experience in backup roles, lets delve into who has a shot to get more playing time this season.

Defensive Line

Not listed: DaiShon Neal, Carlos Davis and Khalil Davs.  They will enroll this summer for fall practice.

Jack Gangwish started the spring off as the odds on favorite to go through the entire spring as the starting defensive end, opposite of McMullen. He still may be the favorite, but the converted tight end, Freedom Akinmoladun has made a seamless transition to DE and has caught the eye of defensive line coach, Hank Hughes. That’s good news because the Huskers have yet to see much from Joe Keels who seems to have really fallen off the list.

The “Kevin’s” are the only ones on the roster with any game experience on the interior, and Williams has dealt with injuries since arriving at Nebraska. Mick Stoltenberg has impressed some this spring, but he still has a ways to go. Regardless, he will probably see some time at some point this year. Peyton Newell and A.J. Natter should see some playing time as well.

Just how much playing time Newell and Natter will receive, will probably hinge on what the 3 heralded incoming freshman show this fall when they join the Huskers. Odds are the incoming freshmen will redshirt, but a lot will depend on the depth that develops behind McMullen, Collins and Valentine. That depth (or lack of it) could prove to be important as Collins should see his stock sky rocket this season, potentially being a first team all-American candidate and first round NFL draft possibility.