2007 Nebraska Preview - Defense
Nebraska Defense Preview
Preview 2007 - Defense
2007 Nebraska Preview
2007 Nebraska Offense Preview
2007 Nebraska Depth
2006 CFN Nebraska Preview
What you need to know: Defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove
is about throwing different looks at offenses over the last few
years, and while he loses all four starters off a great front
four, he has more talent and depth to work with. The strength is
in the linebacking corps, where Bo Ruud, Corey McKeon, Steve
Octavien and Lance Brandenburgh will control the defense.
There's speed to burn in the secondary, but the defensive backs
haven't played up to their potential or athleticism over the
last few years. This will be one of the Big 12's better
defenses, but it still might not be close to the killer of some
of the great Husker teams of the past.
Ndamukong Suh, 2.5
Interceptions: Bo Ruud, 2
Star of the defense: Senior LB Bo Ruud
Shutdown corner, sure-thing
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior DE
Unsung star on the rise: Senior S Bryan Wilson
Best pro prospect: Senior NT Ndamukong Suh
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Ruud, 2) Suh, 3) LB Corey McKeon
Strength of the defense: Linebacker, secondary speed
Weakness of the defense:
Projected Starters: With all four starters needing to be
replaced on the line, 6-3, 250-pound junior Barry Turner has to
become the star on the end he's expected to be. He had a hard time
getting too much action with stars Jay Moore and Adam Carriker manning
the ends for the last two years, but he still made 18 tackles and 1.5
sacks with six quarterback hurries. He has all the tools, including 4.5
speed, to become a superior all-around defender taking over for Moore at
the Open End, but first he has to come back healthy from a shoulder
problem that kept him out of spring ball.
The other end spot isn't so secure. 6-7, 280-pound junior Zach Porter
hasn't played up to his size making three tackles as a special teamer.
While he's a physical specimen, and an Academic All-Big 12 performer, he
hasn't been able to grow into a role. Now he has the unenviable task of
taking over at Base End for Carriker, the 13th pick in the draft.
6-3, 305-pound sophomore Ndamukong Suh is a rock of a run
defender on the nose, making 19 tackles as a reserve, and he's also
fantastic at getting into the backfield with 3.5 sacks and eight tackles
for loss. Quick off the ball, he's growing into an all-star to revolve
the entire defense around. He should be even quicker now that he's a
year removed from a knee injury that knocked hum out early in his true
A familiar last name is at the other tackle. 6-3, 285-pound junior Ty
Steinkuhler, son of legendary Nebraska offensive lineman, Dean, is
an emerging defender making 22 stops and three tackles for loss in a
backup role. He's not a monster on the inside, but he's quick, strong,
and extremely active. He'll shine with Suh taking up at least two
blockers on every play.
Projected Top Reserves: Providing help at the Open
End behind Turner will be 6-4, 245-pound junior Clayton Sievers,
a former tight end and linebacker who'll move to the line full-time.
Athleticism isn't a problem, and he showed the strength to time in goal
A pair of big tackles will rotate in to provide some bulk. 6-3,
315-pound senior Brandon Johnson is a bigger option behind
Steinkuhler. The former JUCO transfer is big and strong, but he won't
get into the backfield like Steinkuhler. 6-4, 310-pound junior
Shurkee Barfield is another JUCO transfer who sat out last year and
should quickly grow into a force. Originally a Rutgers Scarlet Knight
before transferring, he was a top prospect and a great get for the
On the way is Joseph
Townsend, a JUCO transfer who'll have four years to play three. He's a 6-3,
285-pound tackle with the speed and quickness to be a big end, and the
frame to add a few more pounds and grow into a star tackle.
Watch Out For ... the line to not miss Carriker and
Moore as much as many might think. It's a bit of a stretch to call last
year's Husker line a disappointment, considering the high expectations
and top-shelf talent all across the front, but yeah, it was a
disappointment. There might not be a top 15 draft pick up front, but it
should be rock-solid.
Strength: Aggressive tackles. Suh will be an
All-Big 12 performer, and Steinkuhler is non-stop plugger who'll make a
ton of plays by always going full-tilt. It's never a bad thing to have
two top backups, like Johnson and Barfield, checking in around 310
Weakness: The second defensive end opposite
Turner. Is Potter ready to live up to his potential? Can 6-5, 265-pound
redshirt freshman Pierre Allen be the consistent speed rusher who
can change games? Turner will do his job, but the other side is still
Outlook: You don't get better by losing players
like Carriker and Moore, along with solid tackles Barry Cryer and Ola
Dagunduro. Despite losing all four starters, there isn't going to be a
huge drop-off in overall production against the run. With a great
linebacking corps behind them, the front foursome will be able to take
some chances from time to time.
Projected Starters: After making 65 tackles and two sacks last
year, with three forced fumbles, and with 145 stops in the last two
years, 6-3, 235-pound senior Bo Ruud is moving from the weakside,
where he was good in pass coverage, but not special, to the strongside.
He's a smart veteran who's tough as nails and always in the right
position to make plays. The first-team All-Big 12 selection will be an
even bigger star at his new spot.
Taking over Ruud's spot on the weakside will be 6-0, 240-pound senior
Steve Octavien, a phenomenal talent with all the NFL measurables to
be a great all-around defender. A huge hitter, he came up with 32
tackles and a sack despite being dinged up with a leg problem and
missing five games. If he can stay 100% healthy, which is a big if, he
has the size, speed, and skills to be all over the field and grow into
A bit unsung, compared to Ruud and Octavien, is 6-1, 225-pound senior
Corey McKeon, who finished third on the team with 69 tackles and
eight tackles for loss. Over the last two years, he has 167 stops and a
whopping 30 tackles for loss with eight sacks and 13 quarterback
hurries, however, he made most of his plays in the backfield as a
sophomore. He was asked to sit back a bit more rather than fly to the
passer, and he has the ability to go back to becoming a terror behind
the line if it's in the overall scheme. While he's not huge, he's as
tough as they come.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-1, 230-pound senior
Lance Brandenburgh will be the main backup both in the middle and on
the weakside. Versatile enough to step on on the strongside, too, he
made 41 tackles and four tackles for loss in a reserve role, with once
start in the middle against Missouri. He's a smart player who doesn't
6-2, 225-pound redshirt freshman Kyle Moore is an undersized
strongside linebacker with excellent upside. With his speed, he should
be able to step in early on after a big spring, but it'll be next to
impossible to get Ruud off the field.
Also in the hunt somewhere, likely in the middle, will be 6-1, 250-pound
sophomore Phillip Dillard after getting over a knee injury
suffered in the season opener. As the biggest linebacker in the mix,
he's a physical presence with the talent (he was a top recruit in 2005)
to eventually be a strong starter.
Watch Out For ... Ruud's stats to blow up. It's not
like he didn't put up huge numbers over the last two years, but now he
should be in the hunt for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors.
He'll be free to do more to get into the backfield and be more
Strength: Veterans. Ruud and McKeon have been
rocks of the defense over the last two years, while Octavien might be
the most talented of the bunch. You can do a whole bunch worse than
Brandenburgh, Moore and Dillard as backups.
Weakness: Not much. To look for a possible
problem, this isn't the best all-around group against the pass, but even
that's not that a glaring isSuh.
Outlook: It's more of a star-studded corps than it
might get credit for on a national level. Ruud and McKeon will get
all-star honors, while Octavien has top 100 draft pick potential. As
good as everyone is, there has to be more forced turnovers and more big
plays against the run. Those will come.
Projected Starters: There's experience in the corps, but there
are still plenty of concerns. The first problem is 5-9, 170-pound senior
Cortney Grixby, who was picked apart last year. While he has a
ton of experience, some of the best wheels on the team, and is a strong
tackler with 99 stops over the last two years. He broke up 11 passes,
and picked off one, and now he has to make teams pay for throwing his
On the other side, is 6-0, 190-pound senior Andre Jones after
starting every game, finishing second on the team with 74 tackles. He
made an interception and broke up seven passes, and is a lock for one of
the starting jobs with great speed to go along with his open-field
Senior Tierre Green started his career at running back, moved to
corner, and last year made 65 tackles with an interception in his first
year as strong safety. Doing a little of everything for the team, now
he'll likely move to free safety, despite being an honorable mention
All-Big 12 performer at strong safety. With his speed, he projects more
as a free safety at the next level.
The strong safety job is up for grabs, but after a fantastic spring,
6-1, 205-pound senior Bryan Wilson appears to have taken over the
spot. A career special teamer with only four tackles, with a little time
at corner and nickel situations, and now he could come from out of
nowhere and be one of the team's top tacklers. First, he'll have to
prove the spring wasn't a fluke.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-2, 200-pound senior
Zackary Bowman went into last year as a top NFL prospect, and then
the Alaska native tore his ACL in fall practices. He worked hard,
appeared to get his speed back, and looked ready to take over one of the
starting corner jobs before tearing his patellar tendon. Now, he's
likely out until mid-season, at best. When healthy, he's the team's best
If Wilson sees time at free safety, or falters this fall, 6-1, 210-pound
sophomore Larry Asante will take over at strong safety. A huge
hitter, the JUCO transfer made 76 tackles with 11 tackles for loss for
Coffeyville CC. A former linebacker, he should eventually take over the
starting role and be the tone-setter for the secondary.
With Bowman's status up in the air, JUCO transfer Armando Munillo
will play a big role as a backup at both corner spots, if he doesn't
take over a starting job. The cousin of Washington Wizard star Gilbert
Arenas could've gone just about anywhere, and with his 6-0, 195-pound
size, NFL ball skills, and potential he'll be a vital contributor from
Watch Out For ... Tierre Green to finally get his
just due. Moving around as much as he has, he hasn't been able to get
settled at any one spot. He appears to be a prototype free safety and
should grow into the role. Of course, he could move back to strong
Strength: Speed. If it seems like everyone has NFL
speed, it's because everyone in the secondary really does. There's no
shortage of athleticism, and now it has to mean even more production.
Weakness: Number one cornerback. Andre Jones is a
stat-sheet filler, but he's not a true shutdown defender. Bowman's
injury was a huge blow to the defensive backfield, and he needs to get
back at some point.
Outlook: For the first time in the Bill Callahan
era, the Huskers have several options to play around with. Once Bowman
gets back, they'll have even more. It all might come down to Grixby. If
he uses his experience and speed to come up with some picks early, and
teams start to stay away from him, it'll be a huge plus. USC's and
(don't laugh) Ball State's high-octane passing games come up early on
Projected Starters: The kicking game was solid with Jordon
Congdon connecting on five of seven field goal attempts and junior
Dan Titchener averaging 39.3 yards per punt with a whopping 26 put
inside the 20 and 28 forced fair catches. Congdon didn't have a huge leg
and ended up transferring to USC, leaving the door open for junior
Jake Wesch to get a shot after handling some of the kickoff duties.
He has great range, but he'll have to prove he can be consistent or true
freshman Adi Kunalic, who has a 50-yard leg, could take over.
Watch Out For ... the placekicking job to be a thorn
in the team's side for a while. It's going to be an ongoing battle that
won't be settled until Nevada comes to Lincoln.
Strength: Titschener. Most look at average and
simply assume a punter is good or bad based on it. Titschener was one of
the nation's most effective punters with his ability to pin teams deep,
and only allowing 4.1 yards per return.
Weakness: The return game. Nebraska averaged a
mere 17.43 yards per kickoff return and 8.17 yards per punt return.
Cortney Grixby will get a shot at returning punts after averaging 7.1
yards per try, while Marlon Lucky will be the main kickoff returner
after averaging 19.1 yards per attempt.
Outlook: The special teams will look to several
newcomers to beef things up all the way around after an average season.
The kick return game wasn't bad in the past, and could be good again in
a big hurry. The big question mark, and the difference between a Big 12
title type of season and being an also-ran, could depend on whether or
not a steady placekicker shows up.