Before we look at the explosive offense of the Nebraska Cornhuskers tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the strong defense. Led by Head Coach Bo Pelini, Nebraska hangs their hat on physical defense. Many Bruin fans may think of Nebraska as a spread offense team, led by Corona Centennial alum Taylor Martinez, but the best Nebraska teams under Pelini have all been strong on defense, as well.
After dropping off a bit defensively last year, the big question in Lincoln, Nebraska is will the defense be strong enough to contend for a Big 10 championship? If they can return to the form of Ndamukong Suh led defenses of a few years ago, a trip to the Big 10 championship game and possible trip back to Pasadena in January are possible.
So how do they get there?
The Huskers defense will be led by two key defensive lineman, Baker Steinkuhler and Cameron Meredith. These two seniors lead a defensive line that comes back almost entirely intact from the 2011 season, with only the key loss of All-America defensive tackle Jared Crick. While depth certainly is not an issue for the Nebraska defensive line, star power may be. Crick adequately stepped up when Suh moved on to the NFL and the unit is now looking for the star to step up in Crick’s place. First year starter Chase Rome could be that man.
At Linebacker, the Huskers lose Lavonte David from 2011, but do return Senior starter Will Compton. Compton is expected to step up his leadership role in 2012, along with two new Senior starters by his side in Sean Fisher and Alonzo Whaley. This unit, like the defensive line, is expected to be stable with three senior starters, but may lack playmaking ability.
In the secondary, the Huskers took another hit with the loss of Alfonzo Dennard to the NFL, but return two starters. Junior cornerback Andrew Green may be the most talented defensive back on the roster. Senior Strong Safety Daimion Stafford returns and will play along side Green and first-time starters Antonio Bell and P.J. Smith in the secondary.
With seven starters returning from a defense that ranked 37th overall in 2011, the Cornhuskers are looking to leap into the top 25 in total defense in 2012. Key names must be replaced at every level of the defense, but if Nebraska can find one or two breakout stars, along with a solid group around them, this defense has the potential to be very good. If they can’t find a star at any level, the defense will still be solid, but won’t improve much from the defense of 2011.