Rosters around the Big Ten are taking shape in the aftermath of signing day. As we review the results of last week and look ahead to the 2016, our ESPN.com reporting team is examing how every team in the conference fared.
Next up: the Nebraska Cornhuskers
Team’s position of strength: Wide receiver
The Huskers return their top six pass catchers from 2015, including receiver Jordan Westerkamp, who is in position to shatter most of the school’s position records. Gone is Lane Hovey, who is transferring to Montana, but the Nebraska receivers look like a stronger unit in 2016 with the expected return from injury of top playmaker De'Mornay Pierson-El and the continued maturation of Stanley Morgan Jr., a breakout true freshman last year. Brandon Reilly and Alonzo Moore, who combined to catch 64 passes for 1,149 yards and 10 touchdowns, also return at receiver. Yes, Nebraska is stacked -- and it adds Derrion Grim of Stockton, California, for spring practice after he caught 96 balls for 1,928 yards and a state-record 34 touchdowns last season. J.D. Spielman joins the mix in August.
Team’s biggest need heading into signing day: Linebacker
Linebackers coach Trent Bray, upon arriving with Mike Riley from Oregon State after the 2014 season, found just four linebackers on scholarship at Nebraska. Considering the situation, the Huskers did well in 2015 -- and the whole group is back, bolstered by the emergence of Dedrick Young as a true freshman and the rise of walk-on Chris Weber. Though 2015 signee Adrienne Talan didn’t last in Lincoln, Nebraska has inched closer to fielding a complete group of linebackers as Josh Banderas and Michael Rose-Ivey approach their senior seasons. Junior Marcus Newby and sophomore Luke Gifford play key roles, too.
How Nebraska addressed the need: It snagged three solid linebackers.
Finally, come August, Nebraska will return to full strength with the addition of four-star signee Quayshon Alexander of New Jersey, three-star prospects Pernell Jefferson of New Orleans and Greg Simmons out of Florida. The Huskers fended off bids from Rutgers, Indiana and Pitt for Alexander, an early pledge, and flipped Jefferson in January from his commitment to Oklahoma.
Biggest need remaining: Defensive end
The Huskers lost Jack Gangwish and may experiment with Greg McMullen, the other starting end in 2015, at an interior spot as they attempt this spring to find replacements for early departures Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine at tackle. That leaves Freedom Akinmoladun, who showed flashes in his first season of play, as a top candidate for time at end in addition to senior walk-on Ross Dzuris, A.J. Natter, Sedrick King, redshirt freshmen Alex Davis and DaiShon Neal. Nebraska failed to sign a defensive end in its 2016 class, a disappointment for Riley, who is searching for a new defensive line coach, too, after cutting ties last week with assistant Hank Hughes.