The offensive line looks like we thought it would with the exception of Jacob Hickman at reserve center. I had Victory Haines penciled in at that position, but Hickman has a little more experience and is obviously playing better at this point. Mike Huff is listed as co #1 with Matt Slauson - no shock there given Slauson’s recent injury and Huff having 13 starts under his belt. The starting offensive line averages 309 pounds with Huff, 316 with Slauson. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it?
Maurice Purify is missing from the depth chart for Nevada because of his suspension for off-field Nate Swift and Terrence Nunn will be starting at the X and Z receiver positions, respectively. Look at this group, though - Swift, Peterson, Nunn, and Hardy. Of our top eight receivers from last season all but Brandon Jackson returned, so we’ve got a great group even without Purify.
The traditional "tight end" designation has been replaced by "H-Back". Consider it a combination of the fullback and tight end positions. At starter is senior JB Phillips. There are five guys listed at the position. There’s probably a formation that includes at least four of them, so it’s not just in the guide for it’s good looks.
At I-Back, Marlon Lucky is the obvious start, but the shock comes when you realize that Cody Glenn isn’t on the depth chart. Instead, true freshman Quentin Castille has taken his place. At 6’1, 245, Castille is an obvious short-yardage guy, but given he’s a freshman don’t expect him to know the offense beyond taking the ball and runing up the middle. Behind him are fellow true freshman Roy Helu and converted defensive secondary dude Major Culbert, who is one guy on this team that deserves a lot of credit because he’s done everything the coaches have asked of him.
If Glenn needs more time to heal, then so be it, get the younger guys some playing time because the schedule won’t get any easier after this game. If Marlon Lucky were to get injured - a distinct possibility because of the pounding that running backs take - it’s clear there isn’t a lot of experienced depth behind him.
The quarterback situation has been reviewed plenty. Sam Keller, Sam Keller, Sam Keller, Joe Ganz. Don’t expect Keller to throw for 350 yards in the game against Nevada unless we have 350 yards rushing. Rather Joe Ganz get some playing time than Keller have a 400 yard game.
Really no surprises on the defensive line. Ndamukong Suh starting as nose tackle, with the combo of Brandon Johnson/Shukree Barfield behind him. On paper it appears to be a great combination when we move to the 3-4, as all of the above are over 300 lbs. The key will be as to whether or not Johnson and Barfield can exhibit the same amount of strength that Suh has. The defensive tackle position goes to Ty Steinkuhler who is backed up by Kevin Dixon.
At the defensive end positions, Barry Turner starts at the open end, with Zach Potter starting at base end. These two guys are responsible for replacing two NFL-draft picks Adam Carriker and Jay Moore. This will be one of the key areas to watch during the Nevada game - how quickly do these guys get up the field or get to the quarterback? Our need to generate a pass rush from the DE position isn’t as urgent as it was last year, but if these guys can get the pressure it opens up other possibilities on defense.
All four senior linebackers, Steve Octavien, Corey McKeon, Bo Ruud, and Lance Brandenburgh, are listed as starters. Again, we’re going to run a lot of 3-4 defense this season, although whether it comes up against Nevada is anybody’s guess. Maybe they run it just to get the calls, checks, and positions corrected.
The surprises on defense are left to the secondary. Armando Murillo got the starting nod at the left corner over Andre Jones, who started 13 games last season.
No doubt people are going to start whining about Courtney Grixby starting at the other corner. The only thing people know about Grixby is his 5’ 9" height and they stop thinking about him after that. This year he’ll have some safety help, and some other experienced guys in the secondary. If the guy wasn’t good at doing his job, he wouldn’t be making his 29th start this weekend, would he? Barring injury and whether or not Bowman returns, Grixby will be starting for the rest of the season, so just get over yourself.
Safeties include hard-hitting Larry Asante and Tierre Green. They’re backed up by Bryan Wilson and Rickey Thenarse. What should strike you about this secondary is how much depth there is compared to last season.
Adi Kunalic and Alex Henery are co-starting at placekicker, which probably has most people guessing that Kunalic will handle kick-offs, while Henery handles PAT’s and field goals. I doubt this is the case. We’re favored by 21 points, so each of these guys should get a shot at handling different duties. Given their youth the coaches will get the chance to evaluate them in game play, so why not?
Our punter is Dan Titchener who did a good job last season, given that he was asked to punt on a short field because our field goal kicker couldn’t hit anything beyond 40 yards.
The kick return and punt return positions list no less than five and four guys respectively, so just like the place-kicking position, consider the Nevada game an audition for the rest of the season with regards to these positions. Andre Jones is listed as the top kick returner, along with Terrence Nunn. Grixby and Nunn are the top punt returners. I hear your collective groan and I ask you to stop.
Nebraska needs to show improvement in the special teams area more than anywhere else on this team. Doing special teams well can make up for so much ground - it’s like getting free space on the field, and if we were to sustain some injuries (such as the running back area), it could mean the difference between the North division and big-time disappointment.
It’s a typical Bill Callahan depth chart, with lots of depth listed and co-#1’s. He was obviously forced into putting this together so that we’d have something to discuss. Bill doesn’t think in terms of starters and non-starters. He thinks of sets and the guys who fit into those sets, and how those sets fit into downs and distances.
So when you see a depth chart from Bill Callahan, nothing else on offense really counts but the quarterback. He’s the only guy that’s a constant.
And on defense? Well, you’ll have to ask the Cos’.