May 7, 2010

Spring grade out: Cornerbacks

As the Nebraska football team moves closer to the start of summer conditioning, will begin our daily position grade outs of where things are at out of spring ball. Today we breakdown the cornerback position and the positives and the negatives that happened during the four weeks of spring practice and we also preview what lies ahead.

Other spring grade outs: QB l RB l WR l TE l OL l DE l >DT l LB l S

Overall spring grade: A

Second maybe only to junior defensive tackle Jared Crick, senior cornerback Prince Amukamara comes into this season regarded as not only one of Nebraska's best overall players, but one of the better defensive backs in the Big 12 Conference. Then you pair him up with junior Alfonzo Dennard across the field and add a deep and promising cast behind them, and suddenly cornerback becomes one of the Huskers' most talented defensive positions. It's been a long time since Nebraska has featured two shutdown-caliber corners like Amukamara and Dennard, and that's not even counting junior Anthony Blue, a definite contender for playing time if he can stay healthy. With the pieces NU has at the position this year and the introduction of the nickel as a full-time starter in the new peso defense, its defensive play calling and blitz game could open up more than ever before under head coach Bo Pelini.

Spring surprise: Amukamara's rise to the elite

The surprise wasn't that Amukamara suddenly became a good player. He'd always been good. What was surprising was just how quickly he transformed from a solid Big 12 cornerback to a projected first-round draft pick next April. Amukamara has always been one of those players both fans and coaches alike have been waiting on to take that one big step in his development. From all accounts from the coaching staff and his teammates, Amukamara finally did it this spring. As mentioned before, having a guy like the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Amukamara is an invaluable weapon for Nebraska's defense, as should allow NU to dial up more blitzes and dedicate its coverage help to other parts of the field. When teams do decide to throw at him, the results will more than likely be similar to what he did in the Big 12 Championship last season.

Question that still needs answered: Can they live up to the hype?

With all the attention going to Amukamara and even Dennard this off-season, it will be interesting to see if Nebraska's cornerback duo will be as good as advertised when the season kicks off. Obviously Amukamara has some hefty expectations to live up to, but even how well Dennard handles the extra attention he might see from teams throwing away from Amukamara will play a big role in just how good NU's secondary will be. The good news is that the Huskers will have a fifth defensive back on the field most of the time, as the peso was made the base defensive package to help better match up in coverage. That means senior nickel Eric Hagg and occasionally DeJon Gomes will be on the field nearly every down, which is definitely a good thing.
What does the future hold at safety?

The Huskers have some definite talent to work with atop the depth chart at cornerback, but there are also plenty of promising young players waiting in the wings. Look for redshirt freshmen Andrew Green and Lazarri Middleton to see more and more action as the season rolls along, especially when NU uses its dime defense with six defensive backs. Also, incoming freshmen Ciante Evans and Josh Mitchell will only make an already deep position even more talented and competitive when they arrive in the fall.

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