Nebraska Spring Football: Early Practices Show Off Moving Defensive Parts

Eric Francis

It's kind of a tease that media are allowed into the first spring practice, then banished, but one member of the Lincoln Journal Star did bless us with a tidbit:

Good advice on Mr. Christopherson's part as Spring is when the coaches have the ability to go all Dr. Frankenstein with the roster.

While March 2 was the first day of practice, players weren't named first-stringers due to a game of rock, paper, scissors...as far as we know.

Reordering Frankenstein's monster, here's what will potentially be attached from the above list in April and beyond:

Defensive line:

Jason Ankrah is the obvious choice here. 2012's performance was the tip of the iceberg for him as he played in all games, starting nine.

Kevin Williams logically has more of a right to claim a starting role right now than Aaron Curry due to experience (which seems to be a frequent occurrence on this list). That said, the question of health still surrounds Williams due to repeated injury.

Curry may be the healthy one, but he's also more experienced than Vincent Valentine. Watch for those two names to both flip and be side by side this spring.

Of the players on hand, experience appears to win out again at the other defensive end spot with Avery Moss in front of Greg McMullen. Once Randy Gregory's on campus, this role is officially up for grabs.

In other words, Ankrah ain't going anywhere. The same can't be said for anyone else.

Linebackers:

Assuming Christopherson had Brown at BUCK, Anderson at MIKE and Santos at WILL, there may be a shell game played, but this is a solid combination that can swarm.

Brown's a physical player, perfect for the BUCK position, but swapping Anderson and Santos would be the way to go. At 220 pounds, Santos can both play the run and cover. Quite frankly, the newest No. 13's too fast to keep inside.

While this is an immensely talented group already, the Huskers will have an embarrassment of riches when fall practice starts. You may see the three above for a good chunk of the Red-White Spring Game, but August may very well end up producing an entirely new lineup against Wyoming.

Defensive backs:

Considering Andrew Green's out getting shoulder surgery, his starting spot obviously depends on his recovery.

That said, Josh Mitchell's out of place as a starter. As a nickel back? Maybe, but if I'm an offensive coordinator, Mitchell has to stop my best receivers before Ciante Evans or even SJB get the opportunity.

Green's absence doesn't help his chances to lock down a starting spot, especially if Auburn transfer Jonathan Rose gets comfy. He's been putting in some time at safety, but until more than half of spring practice is done, Rose is still a cornerback in my eyes.

If Charles Jackson can handle the mental aspect of being a safety in Pelini's system, he'll be deadly. However, if all he can do is be the secondary's version of Eric Martin, that's a problem.

Harvey Jackson as the other safety is...meh. Long story short: If he's the most cerebral safety, he'll get the start.

What have we learned? Well, Jason Ankrah's got his spot and maybe one or two of the linebackers listed could stick around.

Overall, it's encouraging to see Bo Pelini and his defensive staff comfortable enough with what they're seeing to try different things (moving around linebackers, shifting corners to safety, etc.).

The entire group above may play at the same time in mid-April, but only a few will remain come fall.

That seems like an ominous statement, but capable defensive depth at all levels is something Nebraska needs to contend in the Big Ten in 2013 and beyond.

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