May 3, 2010

Spring grade out: Defensive ends continues our daily position grade outs of where things are coming out of spring ball, as today we breakdown the defensive end position and the positives and the negatives that happened during the four weeks of spring practice and we also preview what lies ahead.

Overall spring grade: C+

Though Nebraska lost Barry Turner to the NFL, the prospects at defensive end just might be better than they've been in years this season. The highlight of the position is senior Pierre Allen, who had as good of a spring as nearly any defensive player on the roster and emerged as one of the leaders of the entire defense. He said he's intent on producing bigger numbers in every statistical category, especially in quarterback sacks, as he promised he'd get at least six this year. Add in the progress sophomores Cameron Meredith and Josh Williams and redshirt freshman Jason Ankrah have made this spring, and defensive end looks both deep and talented heading into fall camp.
Spring surprise: Williams's rebound

Williams finally started showing the talent last year that made him such a highly touted recruit when he first arrived in 2008. Through the first couple weeks of the season, he had all but established himself as the No. 2 end behind Allen, but his progress came to a halt after he suffered a broken fibula in his right leg that caused him to miss most of the year. After working his way back from scratch once again this spring, Williams appears to have picked up right where he left off. Now up to nearly 260 pounds and with two years of experience under his belt, Williams has emerged as a guy who could provide some solid depth behind Allen or possibly push Meredith for the other starting end spot.
Question that still needs answered: Can they carry their weight?

Last year, pretty much the majority of the responsibilities for entire defensive line were handled by Ndamukong Suh and Jared Crick. With Suh gone and more attention undoubtedly to be given to Crick, it's going to be up to the defensive ends to help pick up the slack and provide their share of pressure and presence against the run. Allen has already guaranteed more production from him in the pass rush, and the Huskers are going to need all of it plus some from guys like Meredith, Williams and Ankrah. Plus, with the introduction of the peso defense as NU's new base defensive package, getting to the quarterback will be as important as ever for the Huskers' front four.
What does the future hold at defensive end?

From everything I've seen and heard, this could be a big year for Allen, who could very well join Suh in the NFL if he can put together the type of season he's capable of. While the rest of the unit is young, Meredith and Ankrah already look like stars in the making. I'll even go as far as to say Meredith could have the type of breakout season Crick had last year, or at least close to it. If Williams can continue to progress and incoming freshmen like Donovan Vestal and Tobi Okuyemi can make some sort of impact in the fall, Nebraska should be set for the next few years at defensive end.

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