Thursday, September 13, 2007

Nebraska Defense Preview

Projected Starters vs. USC (full depth chart here)
Players in ALL CAPS are returning starters (5)

OPEN DE: 99 Barry Turner, 6-3, 265, Jr., Antioch, Tenn.

DT: 43 Ty Steinkuhler, 6-3, 280, So., Lincoln, Neb.

NT: 93 Ndamukong Suh, 6-4, 305, Jr., Portland, Ore.

BASE DE: 98 Zach Potter, 6-7, 285, Jr., Omaha, Neb.

SAM: 51 BO RUUD, 6-3, 235, Sr., Lincoln, Neb. -AND- 40 Lance Brandenburgh, 6-1, 230, Sr., Overland Park, Kan.

MIKE: 13 COREY McKEON, 6-1, 225, Sr., Naperville, Ill.

WILL: 15 Steve Octavien, 6-0, 240, Sr., Naples, Fla. - AND -

LEFT CB: 5 Armando Murillo, 6-0, 195, Jr., Tampa, Fla.
25 ANDRE JONES, 6-0, 195, Sr., Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

SS: 4 Larry Asante, 6-1, 210, So., Alexandria, Va.

FS: 30 TIERRE GREEN, 6-1, 200, Sr., Omaha, Neb.

WEAK CB: 2 CORTNEY GRIXBY, 5-9, 170, Sr., Omaha, Neb.
1 Zack Bowman, 6-2, 200, Sr., Anchorage, Alaska

I didn't get to see Nebraska against Wake Forest last Saturday, and I was at USC tailgating for the Idaho game when they played Nevada in the opener, so I've only been able to see a few highlights. I obtained some fairly decent videos for both games (here's the Nevada game, and here's the Wake game) and have made a few observations. Nebraska hasn't been able to recapture the spirit of the once mighty BLACKSHIRTS that preyed on opposing offenses for so many years, but this is still a pretty solid group. The strength of the Husker D lies with the linebackers and an athletic group of defensive backs. Let's get to know the guys that John David Booty's unit will face on Saturday...

Secondary: The secondary welcomes back CB Zachary Bowman, who was a top NFL prospect entering last season before tearing his ACL early in camp. He had himself a nice offseaon, but then tore his patellar tendon and his status for the season was in question. Bowman got himself ready for the season and helped seal the victory over Wake Forest last week with a 4th Quarter interception in the back of the end zone. If he is healthy, then the rest of the speedy secondary will be better equipped to face USC's big WR's. Last year's starters Cortney Grixby and Andre Jones got torched by Booty, who connected with Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith 17 times for 189 yards and 3 TD's. Free Safety Tierre Green was an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection at SS last season, but he can utilize his speed more effectively at FS. The move of Green has opened the door at SS for JUCO transfer Larry Asante, who is a big-time hitter.

Linebackers: SLB Bo Ruud was a First Team All-Big 12 selection a year ago playing on the weak side, but he now moves over to his more natural role on the strong side. He and MLB Corey McKeon are both seniors and provide a lot of experience, smarts, and toughness to the entire defense. The wild card might be senior WLB Steve Octavien, who is a very good athlete, but might be a bit undersized. He's listed and 6-0, 240 but he moves really well and is probably closer to 215 lbs. He will gobble everything up if USC attempts to bounce run plays to the outside.

Defensive Line: When we first introduced Nebraska on Tuesday, I mentioned that the Huskers enter this season with an entirely new starting defensive line. Ends Adam Carriker (1st Round) and Jay Moore (4th Round) were selected in April's NFL Draft and as a result, the Huskers have struggled to generate a pass rush this season. Nebraska sacked the QB only once in each of their first two games, but they have been pretty solid against the run. The star of the line seems to be nose tackle Ndamukong Suh, who penetrated the Wake Forest offensive line and making 3 tackles (2 for loss). End Zach Potter is coming off a nice game against Wake and, at a height of 6-7, is a threat to deflect a couple of Booty's passes.

Still to Come Friday:
(1) What to Expect
(2) Match-ups to Watch
(3) Predictions

Thanks to College Football News for providing some of the background info.

Fight On!

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