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March 2, 2013

Spring preview: Secondary

With spring practice beginning today, HuskerOnline.com concludes our in-depth look at each position with our 2013 spring position previews.

Today, we analyze and breakdown the secondary heading into spring practice.

What we know right now: There is a fascinating mix of veterans and new faces in this group. The Huskers return nearly every cornerback that saw extensive playing time last year but lose both starting safeties and are left with little experience there.

The starting cornerback positions were a revolving door for much of the season as Bo Pelini and Terry Joseph rode the hot players and those who performed well in practice. One Husker who never had to worry about playing time was Ciante Evans, who turned in a sterling junior year at nickelback after being up and down his first two years on campus. Evans proved capable of locking down opposing slot receivers but also played well on the outside. His return alone makes this a position of strength.

Joining him are Andrew Green, Josh Mitchell and Stanley Jean-Baptiste, who all started at some point. Every member of this trio had his ups and downs throughout the season and struggled mightily in the bowl game, but they form a solid group. Also in the mix is Mohammed Seisay, who missed part of fall camp with an injury and struggled to catch up after that. Now that he's been in the system for a year, he could receive more playing time.

Daimion Stafford and P.J. Smith took nearly all the snaps at safety in 2012, so it's unsure what Nebraska has behind them. It will be tough to keep converted corner Charles Jackson off the field - coaches and teammates rave about his athleticism and energy. Corey Cooper spent most of last season at dime back but will likely get a look here. Harvey Jackson split reps with Smith early in the season but rarely saw the field near the end of 2012. And true freshman D.J. Singleton, who enrolled early and is on campus now, could be in play if he digests the playbook quickly enough.

Biggest question to answer: What can Jonathan Rose provide? The cornerback transferred from Auburn early last year and had to sit out, but made strong impressions in practice that appear to have put him in position to compete for a starting role. As mentioned above, cornerback is a crowded spot right now, but the sophomore appears to have the tools to at least dent the rotation. If he lives up to the hype, few schools in the nation will be able to match NU's depth at cornerback.

Spring dark horse: Keep your eye on Charles Jackson. He was incredibly active on special teams last season and simply seems to talented to leave on the sidelines. He is learning a new position, so there is a learning curve for him that isn't there for some of the other safeties. But neither Cooper nor Harvey Jackson have much game experience and haven't really capitalized when their playing time has come. If Jackson figures his new position out quickly, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him in the starting lineup in the fall.


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