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2017 Nebraska Spring Football: Defensive Preview

Changes are coming with a new system and new roles.

Purdue v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Flashback to 2015. Recall Nebraska’s defense. Many, many bombs by opposing offenses over the tops of Husker defensive backs causing much baldness throughout the ranks of Nebraska fans all across the world. The reason? New coaches, and a new defensive scheme, that we were told our defensive backs were having difficulty learning.

2017. New defensive coordinator. New defensive scheme. We remain hopeful that this new man, Bob Diaco, can bring hope, and bring back tradition in the form of a true Nebraska Blackshirt defense. Our scalps, our hairlines, and our women will be eternally grateful to him shall he accomplish this great feat.

Nebraska’s defense in 2016 wasn’t entirely awful, finishing 30th nationally in total defense, 49th nationally in pass defense, and 43rd in rush defense. That’s not terrible, considering a looming lack of a pass rush (Nebraska tied for 65th nationally in sacks with 13 on the season).

There were some bright spots in the 2016 defense. The propensity to give up explosive plays through the air in 2015 nearly disappeared in 2016. Up until the Ohio State game, Nebraska was ninth nationally in giving up receptions of over 20 yards. The defensive secondary came up with 16 interceptions, their most since picking off 19 passes in 2010.

Nebraska loses some key players going into 2017. Top defensive lineman Kevin Maurice, top tackler Josh Banderas (93 tackles), and third top tackler Michael Rose–Ivey (70), and the man regarded as our best defensive player Nate Gerry who led the team in interceptions with four and finished second in tackles with 74.

There are so many questions about this coming season with regards to our defense:

The switch to the 3 – 4 defense? Will it be any better than what we did before?

Who will play the nose tackle position? Mick Stoltenberg? Carlos Davis? Incoming frosh Damion Daniels who gets mentioned a lot just because of his size?

Will there actually be an effective pass rush whether it be from a defensive end or linebacker position?

What Bob Diaco’s defense be able to effectively stop the run?

Nebraska’s defensive secondary featuring Chris Jones, Joshua Kalu, Aaron Williams, Kieron Williams, and Antonio Reed looks like it might be one of the best in the nation. Will new defensive secondary coach Donte Williams not screw this up?

What newcomers might see the field this season?

Will Bob Diaco go shirtless on the sideline? (That one’s for the ladies.)

Don’t expect Nebraska’s defense to carry the team this season.

The Bob Diaco hire may turn out to be a really great move by Mike Riley, but I’m skeptical that it works out in year one. You not only have to integrate a new scheme, but new coaches with Diaco, Donte Williams, and Bob Elliott, you’re going to have to integrate a lot of new staff.

Expect Nebraska to be one of the best in the nation, again, at limiting big plays in the passing game, but expect it to be balanced by difficulty in stopping the run as linebackers learn new positions and Nebraska struggles to find that guy in the middle, the nose tackle.

I know what you’re thinking.

“Wait a minute. If the defense isn’t going to carry the team, and the offense has to break in a new quarterback..... “


I said it earlier if you were paying attention - the offensive line is going to have to be the brightest point on this team this season.

My hope is eternal, but I cannot lie. This will be a very, very interesting year for Nebraska football, and a very interesting year for the reign of Riley.