August 3, 2010

Fall camp preview: Filling Suh's big shoes

There arguably hasn't ever been a void left at any position for Nebraska like the one left by Ndamukong Suh at defensive tackle. Not only will the Huskers have to replace one of the their greatest players of all-time, they'll also have to find a new lynchpin for the entire defense.

It definitely won't be easy, but the good news is that NU just might be able to pick up where it left off last year through a group effort. Here's a look at the situation at defensive tackle heading into fall camp.

Biggest question: Who replaces Suh?

No one on Nebraska's roster will be able to fully replicate what Suh accomplished during his incredible run last season. However, nobody is expecting just one guy to do it. Obviously preseason All-Big 12 Conference selection Jared Crick will take the reigns as the leader of the interior line this year. While he'll undoubtedly get paid considerable more attention from opposing offensive lines, his performance last year was second only to Suh. Next to him will likely be sophomore Baker Steinkuhler, who was the gem of the Huskers' 2008 recruiting class. With the help of guys like junior Terrence Moore, redshirt freshman Thaddeus Randle and a slew of young talent also in the mix, Nebraska might be able to stay afloat just fine in life after Suh.

What we know right now: Crick will have plenty of help

One of the big offseason questions has been whether Crick will be able to replicate his production from last season without the luxury of lining up next to Suh. It will be tougher sledding for sure, but the junior won't exactly be getting triple-teamed like Suh was at times last year. The reason for that is Nebraska simply has too many weapons along the defensive line and in its blitz packages for teams to solely focus their blocking schemes around Crick. With Pierre Allen, Cameron Meredith and Co. on the ends and an extremely athletic back seven behind him, Crick should get plenty of chances against one-on-one blocking.

Fresh fall camp faces: Chase Rome

Nebraska has some promising young talent at defensive tackle coming up through the ranks, and one of the brightest looks to be freshman Chase Rome. Along with fellow freshman Jay Guy, who has plenty of potential as well, Rome enrolled early in the spring and got the ball rolling in his development and learning of the defense. This should pay off big time for the former four-star recruit out of Missouri, who could end up being NU's next star in the making at defensive tackle.

Early camp prediction

Don't get me wrong, there's no way there won't be some sort of drop off this season with Suh no longer in the equation. However, I don't think it's going to be nearly as dramatic as many people seem to think. Crick is a proven talent, and it's not as if he wasn't getting his share of double-teams as well as he steadily emerged last season. Steinkuhler got all of that hype coming out of high school for a reason, and Moore has been in the program long enough to be a solid backup. As long as everyone up front does their job, the Huskers' front four should be just as effective this year. Who knows, maybe more guys will now be able to get some sacks without Suh there to get them first?

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