The Nebraska Cornhuskers are facing a major overhaul on their defense in 2013 after losing eight of their top 10 tacklers from 2012 to graduation. They are getting hit particularly hard in the front seven, where the Huskers have to replace all three starting linebackers from a year ago, including their leading tackler Will Compton. How will Bo Pelini rebuild his defense into something even better next season?
Whatever the defense will look like in 2013, you can bet that it will be built around linebacker David Santos. During his freshman season in 2012, Santos logged quality minutes and finished the season with 24 tackles, including two tackles for loss, and a forced fumble. He has proven that he’s ready for an expanded role in his sophomore season with a strong spring session. He is currently penciled in as the starting middle linebacker for next season, though he has the speed and athleticism to line up at outside linebacker as well.
He represents what the Nebraska defense will look like in 2013. Where they lack experience, the projected starters, particularly at linebacker, are faster and more athletic than their predecessors. Pelini hopes that speed will help to cover up some of the miscues that are bound to happen as they learn how to succeed in the Big Ten next season and allow the Cornhuskers’ defense to be more disruptive in the backfield.
But they have a lot of work to do to get to the level they need to be at. Nebraska broke spring with Santos being one of the only bright spots in a mostly dismal showing from the defense. They will have to hit the ground running when fall camp opens in August to find their footing before the season starts, or they will risk another defensive letdown, like the one that ended their 2012 season.