By Brandon Cavanaugh
A Bo Pelini-led defense is salty and vicious. Only a select few can call themselves starters and are rewarded by being part of a Nebraska tradition that spans over four decades. A simple black practice jersey denotes some of the nastiest young men in the country. We look at the into the crystal ball and see what's to come for the 2011 Blackshirt unit.
Weakside Defensive Tackle
While Jared Crick has the strongside spot locked up, his running buddy on the interior defensive line isn’t cemented. Baker Steinkuhler started every game at this position last year, but his performance seemed to plateau as the season went on. Players like Terrence Moore and Thad Randle appeared to be giving a more spirited performance.
Assuming that all three progress, the job’s likely Baker’s to lose, but Moore was coming on strong towards the end of the year. Steinkuhler finished 2010 with 46 tackles (15 solo and four for a loss), 3.5 sacks and two pass breakups. Moore started only once, but managed 16 tackles (four solo and three for a loss), one sack and one fumble recovery. Randle played in 12 games for Nebraska last season as a third string role when Steinkuhler and Moore needed a rest or in specific packages.
Steinkuhler’s main challenger is Moore. The only physical difference between these two is size as Steinkuhler has three inches on his rival for the starting gig, but this battle will be won by who has the strength and focus to move around some of the nation’s largest offensive linemen. Fall camp and the first few games are going to decide the rightful owner of this Blackshirt.
2010 was Steinkuhler’s first entire season as a starter. As he seemed to run out of gas towards last few games, Moore’s physicality helped him stand out. He proved to be an effective compliment to Crick, but can he be counted on for the majority of a game’s duration? As it stands, Baker will likely walk into the season as the favorite to wear the coveted jersey. However, Bo isn’t a fan of handing them out before he feels his men have earned them, so don’t be surprised to see Moore’s number where Baker’s was expected.
Projected Blackshirt: Terrence Moore
Other Predicted Starters: Strongside Defensive End, Strongside Defensive Tackle
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