Nebraska Huskers Football: Red-White Game Must Show Start of Thicker Red Line

Greg Bartram-US PRESSWIRE

The Big Red's run defense did them no favors in 2012. Who can step up and help provide the depth necessary to make sure a repeat performance doesn't happen?

Stop me if you've heard this one. Bo Pelini faces the unenviable task of working with an interior defensive line lacking quality depth that may be the difference between between a great season and a "meh" season.

Putting up nearly 35 points per game (as the Huskers did in 2012) should be enough to win most games, if not avoid embarrassment.

The former happened, though the number of comeback wins necessary was somewhat concerning, but the False Sense of Security Defense® worked.

The latter, well, it's all documented in its brutal, disturbing form.

What can Nebraska do to prevent such atrocities in 2013?

Fans are excited about a plethora of young, athletic linebackers, and they should be. They're excited about potential new starters in the secondary and what coach Joseph can mold the unit into, and they should be.

Whether or not the Huskers continue the four loss trend of the past several years comes down to that thin interior line yet again.

All eyes are on Vincent Valentine. It's hard to miss him. He's a manbeast, a hoss, a virtual one-man wrecking crew...or he could be, at least.

He has the potential to start come August, but will he realize that potential? There's your $64,000 question.

Thad Randle will continue go above and beyond the call of duty despite injury. He may technically be a senior, but he's been a leading by example long before now. Let's say Randle and Valentine end up as the starting tackles.

Now what? Who steps up to the plate to give them a rest?

Kevin Williams and Aaron Curry are possibilities, but having 275 and 280-pound defensive tackles going up against 325-pound guards isn't going to be effective.

Juniors Tobi Okuyemi and Jay Guy? 280 and 290 pounds, respectively. When the summary of these two players' contributions in 2012 is:

Guy added depth at defensive tackle and played in NU’s win over Idaho State. - Huskers.com

...there's a bit of an issue. Okuyemi wasn't included because nowhere do any stats show contribution. Not a single tackle, not a quarterback hurry, not an irritation of an opponent's skin.

As of now, all of the above are on campus and, barring injury, will participate in this year's Red-White game. Now's the time to find out if Guy and Okuyemi are earning their scholarships. Being a body is one thing. Being able to give starters a breather and provide reliable assistance is another.

While it's unlikely Williams and Curry are going to add 35 pounds of mass by August in a way that doesn't involve some sort of mutagen, this is where coach Kaczenski can truly earn his paycheck.

If Pelini, Kaz and James Dobson all keep on the guys currently hovering just under three bills, the Huskers may be able to cobble together enough quality depth to get through the 2013 season.

Every team on the Nebraska's schedule knows where to start hitting the Huskers on the ground as of now.

Showing signs of removing the weaknesses that led to the Huskers' eventual No. 94 rush defense ranking in 2012 needs to be obvious on April 6, regardless of how quickly Tim Beck's offense has progressed during the off-season.

The last thing Nebraska fans need to see is another team in red or white busting huge gains on the ground at will.

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