Monday, March 21, 2011
Spring superlatives: Nebraska
The spring superlatives series, which examines the strongest and weakest position groups for each Big Ten squad in the spring, matches on with Nebraska.
Strongest position: Defensive line
Weakest position: Wide receivers
- Key returnees: DT Jared Crick (70 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, 10 quarterback hurries); DE Cameron Meredith (64 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 10 quarterback hurries); DT Baker Steinkuler (46 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 4 quarterback hurries)
- Key losses: DE Pierre Allen (65 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 12 quarterback hurries)
- The skinny: Crick leads a dynamic group that should anchor a very strong Huskers defense in 2011. The Huskers boast the Big Ten's best defensive tackle tandem as well as a talented pass rusher in Meredith. Allen will be missed on the other edge, but Nebraska has some intriguing options like Kevin Thomsen, Josh Williams, Jason Ankrah and the speedy Eric Martin, who shined on special teams. Junior college transfer Joseph Carter also should be in the mix at end. Crick is a game-changing type of defensive tackle, in the same mold as recent Big Ten standouts like Jared Odrick and Corey Liuget. Opponents will have a tough time running between the tackles against Nebraska.
- Key returnees: Brandon Kinnie (44 receptions, 494 receiving yards, 5 TDs)
- Key losses: Niles Paul (39 receptions, 516 yards, 1 TD), Mike McNeill (21 receptions, 346 yards, 1 TD)
- The skinny: Production has been an issue with this group, and Paul's departure creates a need for others to emerge around Kinnie, clearly the team's top option at this stage. Kinnie must take his game to another level, and Nebraska's coaches must do a better job of developing other pass-catching options aside from the tight ends and running backs. Although tight end Kyler Reed and running back Rex Burkhead will help here, a team needs more than one reliable wide receiver. Nebraska needs more from players like Curenski Gilleylen and Kenny Bell, who redshirted last season but generated buzz on the scout team.