Nebraska's move to the Big Ten has created an ongoing issue with roster depth at linebacker. In the spread-happy Big XII, linebackers weren't needed much when facing offenses putting four or five receivers out wide. Four years later, you would think that linebacker depth would still be a problem, but transfers and dismissals combined with injuries have meant that Nebraska still doesn't have the depth needed to face Big Ten offenses.
From last season, Nebraska loses weakside linebackers Zaire Anderson (senior) and Courtney Love (transfer) and middle linebacker Trevor Roach (senior) from last year's two-deep, which means that there are opportunities for incoming players to see the field immediately.
So who is back?
5'11" 240 lbs, Junior, Kansas City, MO
Rose-Ivey hyphenated his last name last year to add his mother's name. He missed all of the 2014 season with a torn ACL suffered in the early days of preseason practice. He came on strong late in the 2013 season at middle linebacker, but Mark Banker projects him now as an outside linebacker.
6'0" 225 lbs, Senior, Spring, TX
Santos' knee gave him problems all season long, requiring surgery after he missed the Holiday Bowl. He'll sit out spring practice recovering. He's played all three linebacker positions before, but has had the most success on the strong side. (If Banker and linebackers' coach Trent Bray stay with the titles they used at Oregon State, this would be the SAM linebacker.)
6'2" 235 lbs, Junior, Lincoln, NE
Banderas was thrown into the fray as a true freshman when Santos was struggling at the MIKE linebacker spot and was hot - and cold. He's certainly got the physical tools to play the position, but sometimes the mental aspects slip him up. Banderas might be a player that could benefit from a change in coaching; maybe Trent Bray can improve his consistency on the field.
6'1" 220 lbs, Sophomore, North Potomac, MD
Newby didn't see much playing time as a redshirt freshman, mostly as a pass rusher (and usually lined up as a defensive end). He'll certainly see more playing time in 2015, but with only three tackles in 2014, we really don't have a good idea what Newby will be capable of.
6'1" 220 lbs, True Freshman, Peoria, AZ
An early enrollee and one of Mike Riley's first commitments, Young will see the field this spring. The three-star prospect played both running back and outside linebacker for the Arizona state championship. He was originally targeted by the previous staff, and had offers from Michigan State and many Pac-12 schools, including Oregon State. He totaled 98 tackles as a senior last fall while rushing for 1,557 yards and 19 touchdowns.
6'1" 215 lbs, Redshirt Freshman, Lincoln, NE
Gifford is moving up to linebacker from safety, and Riley calls him a "natural" at outside linebacker, although he admits that the move is driven by the lack of depth.
Others on the roster:
- Alex Boryca, 6'2", 220 lbs, Redshirt Freshman
- Garrett McKay, 6'0", 210 lbs, Junior
- Garrett Poppen, 6'1", 215 lbs, Redshirt Freshman
- Brad Simpson, 6'0", 225 lbs, Junior
- Chris Weber, 6'3", 220 lbs, Sophomore
One or more of those guys should see significant action this spring, though that doesn't necessarily mean much for the fall with Mohammed Barry and Tyrin Ferguson scheduled to arrive this summer.