OK, no Paul McCartney-Stevie Wonder jokes here, but Husker safety play last year was night and day. While Nate Gerry was busy breaking out, Corey Cooper at times made people wonder if he was playing hurt, because he seemed awfully prone to what could gently be called some "bad stretches". Irritated bar drunks, the gentleness in their souls gone south with lost wagers, angrily & loudly wondered if he was shaving points at times.
Of course, bet-losing drunks have very little patience or filters for hurtful comments. But one could only wonder how much playing time Leroy Alexander might have stepped into if he hadn't been suspended. Gerry, meanwhile, served notice that he will be a force for the next two years if....
Well, there is a new head coach & defensive coordinator in Mike Riley and Mark Banker. And since Nebraska is required by law to hire a new defensive backs coach in any winter during which my dog farts or becomes fascinated by her crotch for a minimum of 30 minutes at least once during bowl season, welcome aboard Brian Stewart.
The new staff naturally has a hearty Beaver flavor to it (damn right I went there! Thanks again for that nickname, Oregon State Beavers) and I'll reserve judgment as to whether that's a good or bad thing. I won't miss that wide-eyed "WTF" look Pap would get while waving his arms around and babbling incoherently whenever shit or Melvin Gordon started rolling downhill. A few numbers for comparison's sake, though:
Defensive Efficiency: (nat'l rank) NU 42nd, OSU 71st
Passing YPG: NU 25th, OSU 92nd
Opponent QB rating: NU 3rd, OSU 60th
Yds per attempt: NU 10th, OSU 50th
If you're an optimist, those poor coaches never had chance in Corvallis. If you're a pessimist, I apologize for showing you those numbers. Let's look at the safeties:
Corey Cooper - Despite the misses, finished with 73 total tackles and a pick. Started regularly for two seasons but people expected more. Still, Corey Cooper's a pretty cool-sounding name.
BACK AND THIRSTY FOR MORE
Nathan Gerry - Jr - Led the Blackshirts with 49 solo tackles (88 total) and 5 picks. The confusion that sometimes accompanied his play at linebacker as frosh was gone as he returned to his natural position. Fast enough to defend the pass and big enough to clock a RB. Over the summer he put a black bear to sleep with a rear naked choke, but released it into the wild because he's no Jack Gangwish. He also had his way with your girlfriend. Yes, yours. Don't be mad at her, no one can resist that South Dakota charm.
LeRoy Alexander - Jr - No stats last year, obviously. If he comes back as expected and can return to the form of his freshman season, BIG things can be expected. If there's no slack off in his development, he could have a HUGE season and the Gerry/Alexander combo could leave some offenses SHREDDED. The magic and sure to be oft-repeated word is "if".
Kieron Williams - Soph - A Charlton Warren flip from Air Force (play "Taps" again for our Georgia recruiting), Williams ability and maturity got him on the field for all 13 games last season. He's the reason that Alexander might not waltz into the other safety spot, but regardless, he will play much more this year.
Aaron Williams - true fr - 3-star recruit out of Georgia whose impressive offer list included K-State and Notre Dame. #50 safety in the country per Rivals. I found this out while reading an article about the top recruiters in the Big Ten. Charlton Warren was one of them. (breaking some more shit & kicking the sectional for good measure).
Antonio Reed - true fr - 2-star Mississippi athlete, listed at 6'2" 225 with a 4.5 40 time. Now kids, this is the kind of info you provide to Rivals if you're a 2-star athlete who's only been offered by Memphis. I'm just kidding - Alexander was a 2-star, and, until the suspension, that was looking like the biggest steal since a Philadelphia bookie took a doyle from John Adams on the Colonies straight up vs. the British and the Overs.
Buncha Walk-ons Listed On the Roster As DB's - Hey, the Scout Team is an integral part of the program, No jokes here.
Charles Jackson - Jr - Was set to play Nickel or Peso or whatever fucking currency Pap had in his pockets when he staggered shirtless over the Rio Grande after a tequila-soaked weekend in Tijuana and couldn't decide what to call his schemes. So yeah, he's healthy again and might find himself in the safety mix.
The position is a combination of potential and question marks with Gerry being the only sure thing at the start of spring ball. Alexander was knocking guys on their ass at the end of 2013, but did he take care of himself during a year off? If the answer's yes and he hits the ground running, then the position has its 1-2 punch. Kieron Williams surprised many by getting on the field immediately and seems to be well-positioned to step in next to Gerry if Alexander falters.
With only two incoming true freshmen behind those three, C-Jax could definitely enter the picture if things look shaky with Alexander or Williams. And if his knee holds up. But the ideal scenario for Banker is probably that Gerry, Alexander and Williams hold down the position allowing Williams and Reed to redshirt. If the top three all keep trending upward, this position will be an anchor for the Blackshirts.
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
1's - Gerry/Alexander
2 - Williams
Barring injury, Jackson hangs with the CB's or is a nickel specialist.
Redshirt - Williams/Reed. Also, Reed probably runs a 4.74. My apologies for shattering your dreams.