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August 1, 2011

Fall camp preview: Defensive tackle

As Nebraska gets ready to open fall camp this week, arguably the strength of this team is the defensive tackle position. The Huskers return their top four players at the position from a year ago, to go along with a stable of young talent behind them.

Here's a complete position preview of defensive tackle heading into fall camp.

Biggest question: How will NU properly utilize their depth?
With starters Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler returning, along with top back-ups Terrence Moore and Thaddeus Randle the biggest problem for defensive line coach John Papuchis will be figuring out how to properly develop a rotation this fall. Besides these four players, Papuchis also has several up young guys that could fight for snaps this August, including Chase Rome, Jay Guy, Kevin Williams and Todd Peat.
What we know right now: Defensive tackle is loaded
When you think back to Bo Pelini's first two years at Nebraska sure they had All-American Ndamukong Suh to work with at defensive tackle, but they had very little depth behind him. Heading into now his fourth season at NU the days of Pelini having just two or three defensive tackles to get through an entire season with are done. The Huskers arguably have as good of defensive tackle depth as anybody in the country. Having a player like Suh sure helped get it that way, but the development Pelini and his staff have done has been phenomenal.
Fresh fall camp faces: Todd Peat
Williams was here this spring and did a great job in a short amount of time. Peat though will come into NU as one of the top defensive tackle prospects in the country and he's probably the most touted recruit the Huskers have signed at the defensive tackle position since Suh in 2005. If Peat can prove himself over the month of August, don't assume Pelini will redshirt him just because the position is loaded with veteran talent. If either Williams or Peat are good enough to get in the two deep Pelini will give them a hard look for playing time.
Early camp prediction
Having Crick in the middle gives NU such an advantage heading into 2011. They are going to have the best defensive tackle in the country to build things around, and to make matters worse for opponents, the Huskers return all their top talent around Crick. I look for Crick and Steinkuhler to start, but both Moore and Randle will see plenty of quality snaps as well. The question is what young defensive tackle will jump up there with them to contend for playing time? Rome has yet to prove himself, as injuries have slowed him the last year. I really liked what I saw from Williams in the spring. Peat will be the wildcard if he can come in and learn the system.

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