What you need to know ... All the press seems to be about
the offense, but it's the defense that'll carry the Huskers to
a big season. The front seven is loaded with talent, depth, and
NFL prospects led by ends Adam Carriker and Jay Moore. Nebraska
led the nation in sacks and tackles for loss, and should be
among the best in the nation with all the great players up front
and so many fantastic linebackers that the D might use a little
3-4. The question is the secondary that has speed, but needs to
be more productive after starting to come on over the second
half of last year.
Tackles: Corey McKeon,
Adam Carriker, 9.5
Interceptions: Corey McKeon, 3
Star of the defense: Senior DE Adam Carriker
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior FS
Unsung star on the rise: Junior LB Steve Octavien
Best pro prospect: Carriker
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Carriker, 2) DE Jay
Moore, 3) LB Corey McKeon
Strength of the defense: Front seven, depth up front
Weakness of the defense:
Not only does the Husker D line have six
All-Big 12 candidates, it has six solid pro prospects led by ends Adam
Carriker and Jay Moore. Speed rusher Barry Turner isn't as big as the
two starting ends, but he'll be every bit as dangerous when he gets on
the field. Ola Dagunduro, Ndamukong Suh and Barry Cryer are soon to be
Big 12 household names; the NFL scouts certainly know all about them.
There won't be a better front four in America at getting into the
backfield from all positions.
The key to the unit: Develop young talent. With the four starting
seniors gone next year, there needs to be a little more of a rotation.
Defensive Line Rating: 10
- DE Jay Moore, Sr. - 37 tackles, 3 sacks, 14 TFL, 1
interception, 3 broken up passes, 9 quarterback hurries
Moore is a huge, quick pass rusher who grew into more of an all-around
force last year. He's not the player Adam Carriker is on the other side,
but he'll make more than his share of big plays and should be camped out
in opposing backfields all season long. He'll thrive with offenses
needing to double-team Carriker on every play.
- DT Ola Dagunduro, Sr. - 22 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 TFL, 2 broken up
passes, 8 quarterback hurries
The 300-pound former JUCO transfer spent last year backing up LeKevin
Smith on the nose turning into a reliable run defender. He'll get the
starting nod this season where he should be a good anchor and a
dangerous interior pass rusher after a year of coaching. He should be
- DT Barry Cryer, Sr. - 6 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 4 TFL
A backup at both tackle spots last season, the 280-pound Cryer saw time
in every game but didn't produce too much. He's a pure inside pass
rusher who got in the backfield for four of his six tackles highlighted
by a sack in the Alamo Bowl win over Michigan.
- DE Adam Carriker, Sr. - 43 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 17 TFL, 3 broken
up passes, 19 quarterback hurries
After an average 2004 thanks to an ankle injury, the 6-6, 294-pound
Carriker blossomed into an unstoppable pass rushing force. He wasn't
just great at getting to the quarterback, he was rock-solid against the
run and made play after player when he wasn't double teamed. He's
looking stronger and quicker this season and should be in the mix for
- DE Barry Turner, Soph. - 14 tackles, 6 sacks, 7 TFL, 6
A pure pass rushing specialist, the 6-3, 250-pound sophomore is coming
off an impressive first season where he showed off his 4.5 speed setting
the school's single season record for sacks. Not just a good defender,
he's also a dangerous special teamer with two blocked field goals. He'll
start out behind Jay Moore but will see more than his share of action.
- DT Ndamukong Suh, Soph. - 1 tackle
At 6-4 and 320 pounds, he's the biggest tackle in the mix getting a long
look behind Ola Dagunduro. He's not just a big rock, he's quick enough
to be a regular in the backfield. He'll also push for time behind Barry
This is one of the Big 12's deepest and more productive
corps with six players all able to start without a problem. Bo Ruud is
an All-Big 12 performer who'll have a hard time getting a starting spot
with the return of Steve Octavien from a broken leg. Phillip Dillard is
a rising star in the middle, but he'll have to battle leading tackler
Corey McKeon for time. With Stewart Bradley back after suffering a
season-ending knee injury, the coaching staff has envious problem of
trying to find time for all the talent.
The key to the unit: Staying healthy. If Octavien and
Bradley are really back at the level they were at before getting hurt,
this might be the Big 12's best linebacking corps.
Linebacker Rating: 9
- Steve Octavien, Jr. - 4 tackles, 2 TFL
How good is Octavien? He's expected to knock third-leading tackler and
All-Big 12 performer Bo Ruud out of a starting spot on the weakside. The
star JUCO transfer of last season is the best combination of size,
speed, and talent in the linebacking corps, and now he's ready to blow
up after missing almost all of last year with a broken leg.
- Corey McKeon, Jr. - 98 tackles, 7 sacks, 22 TFL, 3
interceptions, 7 broken up passes, 11 quarterback hurries
McKeon turned into one of the shockers of the defense working his way
past several great prospects start every game in the middle finishing as
the team's leading tackler. He seemingly never missed a stop with 61
unassisted tackles to go along with his good pass rushing skills. While
he's not all that huge at 6-1 and 225 pounds, he's as tough as they
- Stewart Bradley, Sr. - 26 tackles, 3 sacks, 5 TFL, 1
interception, 7 quarterback hurries
Stewart was on the way to an all-star season when he was lost for the
year with a knee injury. While he wasn't able to do much in spring ball,
the 6-4, 245-pound senior will be ready to roll for the start of the
season on the strongside. Versatile enough to play in the middle as well
as on the outside, he'll move around where needed.
- Bo Ruud, Jr. - 80 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 14 TFL, 1 interception, 6
broken up passes, 10 TFL
Ruud stepped in when Steve Octavien went down and finished as the team's
third leading tackler from the weakside. He's a smart, talented veteran
who missed the Alamo Bowl against Michigan thanks to a broken arm, but
he'll be more than fine to start the season. The coaching staff will
find a spot for him to play even though projected starter Steve Octavien
is too good to keep off the field.
- Lance Brandenburgh, Jr. - 23 tackles, 5 TFL, 3 broken up passes
The Academic All-Big 12 performer is a great backup on the strongside.
He overcame a banged up leg to become a steady performer over the second
half of the year as both a defender and a special teamer.
- Phillip Dillard, Soph. - 11 tackles, 1 TFL
Dillard got enough work as a true freshman to step in as a starter in
the middle if needed. At 250 pounds, he's the biggest linebacker in the
rotation and should be fantastic now that he knows what he's doing.
He'll also see time on special teams.
There's speed to burn with talent on the corners to improve
after an average start to last year, but more big plays need to be made.
Lightning fast Cortney Grixby have to make teams pay
for throwing his way, while safeties Tierre Green and Andrew Shanle,
who are even faster than the corners, have to prove they can hit a
little bit. The depth isn't there quite yet taking a huge hit with torn
ACL suffered by CB Zach Bowman; there will be huge problems
if more injuries hit early on.
The key to the unit: Play like the end of last year.
This was a strong secondary over the second half of last season, but the
production will only be duplicated if the safeties come through with
Secondary Rating: 6.5
- CB Cortney Grixby, Jr. - 46 tackles, 1 interception, 10
TFL, 1 quarterback hurry
The 5-9, 170-pound junior isn't all that big, but he's smart, tough, and
has next level speed and athleticism earning honorable mention All-Big
12 honors last year. He was terrific over the second half of last year
as a lockdown corner as well as a top punt returner averaging 10.4 yards
- FS Andrew Shanle, Sr. - 10 tackles, 1 broken up pass
A good special teamer with tremendous speed, Shanle will take over for
Blake Tiedtke where he'll fly to the ball; no one will outrun him. He
has 32 games of starting experience, but he has to prove he can provide
a little bit of pop and has to show he can consistently make plays when
the ball is in the air.
- SS Tierre Green, Jr. - 29 tackles, 4 broken up passes
Green made the switch from running back to corner to safety where he
should become a force if he can be consistent. He has all the NFL
measurables with elite speed in a 6-1, 200-pound frame. While he'll make
some mistakes until he learns the job, he'll have unlimited range
against both the pass and run.
- CB Andre Jones, Jr.
The JUCO transfer went to Fresno City College after spending a year at
Kentucky where he broke his leg in his true freshman season. At 6-0 and
192 pounds, he has great size, good ball skills, and tremendous speed.
Now he'll step into the starting role with Zach Bowman out with a torn
FS Brandon Rigoni, Sr. - 14 tackles, 1 TFL, 2
The team's top special teamer will also see time behind Andrew Shanle at
free safety. He's a smart defender who has 22 games of experience, but
he's limited at only 5-6 and 185 pounds.
Zachary Bowman, Sr. - 27 tackles, 2 interceptions, 11 broken
Bowman had few problems handling himself after moving over from the JUCO
ranks turning into a force as last year went on, but now he'll be out
for the year with a torn ACL suffered in summer practice. The Alaska native is
6-2, 195 pounds, and extremely fast. Along with being an all-star
caliber defender, he's a major player on special teams.
As long as Dan Titchener or Tyler Kester can come close
to replacing punter Sam Koch, the special teams should be excellent.
Jordan Congdon should be in the hunt for All-Big 12 honors if he can
start blasting from deep. Lightning fast Tierre Green will handle most
of the kickoff returns after averaging 24.8 yards per try, and Cortney
Grixby will be the punt returner after averaging 10.4 yards per try.
The key to the unit: Replace Koch. He wasn't just a
fantastic punter, he was also terrific on kickoffs.
Special Teams Rating: 8
- PK Jordan Congdon, Soph. - 19-23 FGs, 31-32 extra
Congdon came through with a fantastic season proving to be clutch and
consistent despite missing three short kicks. While he doesn't have the
biggest leg around, he's rock-solid from 40 yards and in.
- P Dan Titchener, Soph.
Titchener has to take over for the tremendous Sam Koch who cranked out
46.5 yards per kick. Can Nebraska still finish second in the nation in
net punting with Titchener? No, but he should have decent numbers thanks
to a strong coverage unit. He'll battle with Tyler Kester for playing