One of the biggest impacts of conference realignment on Nebraska's roster was at the linebacker position. As the Big XII went spread-happy in recent years, Nebraska only needed one or maybe two linebackers on the field at any time. In the Big Ten, three linebackers is more the norm. So Nebraska has had to turn up the emphasis on recruiting linebackers...and with Lavonte David headed towards NFL glory, there's an immediate hole that needs filling.
Returning: Will Compton, Sr. (starter), Sean Fisher, Sr., Alonzo Whaley, Sr., Trevor Roach, So., David Santos, RFr.; Max Pirman, RFr.
Incoming: Zaire Anderson (verbal), Michael Rose (verbal), Jared Afalava (verbal)
Compton should be the leader of the linebacking corps, but he'll have to be more consistent (although, to be fair to Compton, he did end up being second in tackles with 82). Fisher started four games in 2010, but didn't appear to show the promise he did in 2009. Roach could be a wildcard, looking good in replacing Compton early in the season, and he should be adjusted to playing at the collegiate level. Otherwise, Pelini is going to have to hope that someone like Santos or incoming JUCO Anderson can play at a high level right away.
Mike: No doubt in my mind that we'll miss Lavonte David. But Will Compton is a pretty solid linebacker in his own right. He's the quarterback of the defense who made David better IMHO. So who will replace David? I think it comes down to David Santos or maybe Alonzo Whaley. I don't think Sean Fisher has completely recovered from his injury, and deep down, I wonder if maybe he isn't better suited to be an end on the line...if he could put on 30 pounds.
And I wouldn't rule out any of the incoming players bidding for playing time this season.
Bill: Pelini tends to find Juco guys who can contribute immediately, and he's likely hoping for that from Zaire Anderson, the 3rd ranked Juco linebacker in the country. Luckily, Anderson won't be asked to take over where Lavonte David left off by himself, he's got Will Compton to help him out. Compton probably won't be breaking records or anything next year, but I'd pencil him in for at least 100 tackles now that Lavonte isn't around to get most of them by himself.
I haven't totally given up on Sean Fisher yet. He is probably our biggest linebacker, and we need more big linebackers. Major injuries have a tendency to linger mentally, and Fisher's broken leg in 2010 is no exception. If Fisher overcomes mental hurdles and quits holding himself back, he could be a valuable asset to next year's defense.
I‘m very interested to see if incoming freshmen Michael Rose ends up on the field right away. The kid is genuinely excited to be a husker, and truly believes that he's going to be a part of something great in Lincoln. He has a passion to be great that is very contagious. As long as Rose is willing to do the work that it takes to get there, I believe the sky is the limit for this kid, and hopefully for the players around him as well.
So what's your take? Who has to try and fill Lavonte David's shoes? And are you optimistic about the future at this position or pessimistic?