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2015 Spring Football: Defensive Line Preview

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Who fills in for Randy Gregory? What to make of the young folks? Time to take a look.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

When you look at the defensive line of the 2014 Nebraska Cornhuskers, it's a group that is fair to say came from a laughingstock three seasons ago to a formidable area come this past season. However, with the return of greatness comes a need to restock when the players that helped you get there leave.

There is a ton of youth coming into the fray in '15, and there are spots available to come in and play.

Leaving:

Randy Gregory (Probable top 5 pick in the NFL Draft), Avery Moss (suspended last year, now really can't come back)

Returning players:

Defensive End:

Freedom Akinmoladium - redshirted.
Ross Dzuris - did not appear in a game.
Erik Evans - did not appear in a game.
Jack Gangwish - 19 tackles, 3 sacks last year in spot starting duties. Also killed a raccoon. 
Matt Jarzynka- redshirted.
Joe Keels - JUCO transfer, very limited playing time, recorded 1 tackle.
Sedrick King - reshirted.
Greg McMullen - started the opposite side of Gregory, 47 tackles, 4 sacks.
A.J. Natter -  appeared in 3 games, had one total tackle.
Peyton Newell - redshirted.
Dylan Owen - redshirted.
Logan Rath - played in 2 games, had 4 tackles vs FAU alone.
Mick Stoltenberg - redshirted.

Coming Soon: DaiShon Neal, Alex Davis.

Defensive Tackle:

Maliek Collins: Second best player on the DL and arguably the best returning D player. 45 tackles and 4.5 sacks last year
Kevin Maurice: 8 tackles in some appearances. 
Vincent Valentine: Seemed to start slow but came on as the year went on. 45 tackles, 3 sacks. 
Kevin Williams: Came on as well in the start of the year. 19 tackles, 3 sacks.

Coming Soon: Carlos Davis, Khalil Davis.

Outlook:

Well, there's definitely room for sale on the other side of McMullen, a spot that seemed to be used by LB Marcus Newby at times, although considering that he had 3 total tackles and no sacks, it never seemed to work. One would think that Gangwish would be the closest person to take the role. However, Mick Stoltenberg, Peyton Newell and DaiShon Neal would be the ones to make a claim to that spot early. Freedom's move to DL is basically admitting that while he's a great athlete, his hands have something to be desired. While Freedom could be in the fray, I think something like Newell and Gangwish are going to be the top two guys auditioning for the spot. I think the only disappointment has been Keels, as he was one of the highest ranked JUCOs when recruited at DT. I am unsure why there's been no development there.

DT wise, there's really nothing to really hurt, but the addition of the Davis twins when they arrive will help out depth and such. Collins and Valentine have been the stalwarts, and it's not like Maurice and Williams are slacks out there. Depth was the issue last year, but with a pair like the Davises ready to contribute, it should be all right, providing spring ball and fall camp is gotten through relatively injury-free.

Depth Chart Projections:

DE: McMullen & Gangwish 1's, Newell & Natter 2's. 
DT: Collins & Valentine 1's, Maurice & Williams 2's