With so many linebackers at Bo Pelini's disposal, could Nebraska be looking at a 3-4 alignment this season?
With Will Compton, Sean Fisher, and Alonzo Whaley departing, it's a whole new set of linebackers. Speed was an issue last season with this group of seniors, but after Zaire Anderson torn ACL was discovered, Bo Pelini didn't have much of a choice: play the experienced seniors, or pull someone's redshirt. He chose to go with the experience in 2012. In 2013, there is no other choice. These guys will play, ready or not.
2013 Previews* Quarterbacks
* Running Backs
* Wide Receivers
* Tight Ends
* Offensive Line
* Defensive Line
* Special Teams
Returning: David Santos, Jr; Zaire Anderson, Jr.; Trevor Roach, Jr.; Michael Rose, RFr.; Thomas Brown, RFr.; Jared Afalava, RFr.; Max Pirman, So.
Incoming: Josh Banderas, Verbal; Courtney Love, Verbal; Marcus Newby, Verbal
Departing: Will Compton, Sean Fisher, Alonzo Whaley
Mike: If you thought Nebraska was inexperienced on the defensive line, just look at linebacker. The rules of the game changed dramatically for Bo Pelini when Nebraska jumped to the Big Ten and needed at least one more linebacker on the field at all times, as opposed to in the spread-happy Big XII. That conference switch meant Nebraska was undermanned at linebacker. So now we'll find out if Pelini has found some solutions to Nebraska's linebacker issues in recent years. Zaire Anderson looked like quite the player in one game with a torn ACL. Earlier this week, he tweeted that he was back in one-on-one and seven-on-seven drills.
Did 7on7 and one no one today.. My knee felt great :)— Nbz (@anderson_zaire) January 30, 2013
So that's looking interesting. After that, who knows. My gut suggest that we'll see Michael Rose and Thomas Brown play alongside Anderson, but that's just idle speculation for now. We really won't know much until the spring game, and even then, we might not know much as well.
Same conclusion here as I had with the defensive line. There is a potential that the new guys will be better than the departing seniors, but when you consider the loss of experience, it's also possible that linebacker play could be worse in 2013...and if that happens, that's going to be very difficult for Bo Pelini to work around.
Brandon Cavanaugh: This corps is jam-packed with studs. Almost to the point where I could legitimately see Pelini switching to the 3-4, but he doesn't read my diary that often and I'm not sure it could be effectively done in the Big Ten. Then again, if Nebraska has issues up the middle again, it may be time to go back to the drawing board.
My predicted starters are Zaire Anderson at WILL, Michael Rose at MIKE (no pun intended) and David Santos at BUCK. There's so much talent, guys can get plugged in across the board and be effective. I expect to see one or two guys take an Eric Martin approach and be pass rush specialists during their first year. If you're looking for an area to have the least amount of redshirts, I have to think it's the ‘backers.
Jon: Santos started once last season, against Michigan, and lead the team in tackles in that game with ten. Anderson played in three games before tearing his ACL. Roach saw significant time backing up Compton and finished the season with seven total tackles.
That's the experience of the entire group. They'll have to grow up quickly with UCLA coming to town for the third game next season. The good news is, like Brandon says, there is plenty of potential in the group and they should outperform their predecessors as the season goes on.