August 3, 2008

CB fall camp preview: Off to a fresh start

The Nebraska football team will open up fall camp in less than a week when they take the practice field on Aug. 4. As the countdown to practice begins, will breakdown each position heading into camp with in-depth position analysis. This afternoon we breakdown the cornerbacks, which have been one of the biggest focal points on the entire roster heading into the 2008-09 season.

Biggest question: Can new blood revive the pass defense?
Let's face it, Nebraska's pass defense last year was bad. Awful. Embarrassing. The Huskers ranked in the bottom rung nationally in pass defense (84th), pass efficiency defense (75th) and interceptions (104th). So maybe, unlike most every other position, the introduction of a new cast of cornerbacks might be more of a blessing than a burden? Senior Armando Murillo returns for his second season at left corner, but is the only returning full-time starter in the unit. On the other side, sophomore Anthony West started two games last year and is listed No. 1 on the depth chart, but fellow sophomore Prince Amukamara is right on his heels. Amukamara saw occasional playing time last year as a true freshman, but made big strides during the spring and is expected to make a significant impact as a starter or not. Sophomore Anthony Blue could work his way back into the mix, but he's still a long way from 100 percent in recovering from a knee injury he suffered during winter. Sophomore Eric Hagg is listed as No. 2 at left corner behind Murillo, and his combination of size (6-foot-1, 200 pounds) and athleticism could make him addition to the cornerback rotation.

What we know right now: Youth will have a heavy impact

Aside from Murillo, every cornerback on the Huskers' is a sophomore or younger. This can be interpreted a couple different ways. The inexperience of the unit is obviously an issue, especially considering the pass heavy offenses in the Big 12. However, youth doesn't necessarily mean a bad thing. Athletically, the Huskers' corners are about as good as they come, with players like Amukamara and Blue (when healthy). If NU's young corners can shorten the learning curve, they could easily compensate for their lack of playing time with pure talent. Unfortunately, that is much easier said than done. All of the returning players are learning their second defensive scheme in as many years this season, which certainly won't help the adjustments. It won't be easy, but the fact of the matter is that Nebraska has no other choice. The youngsters are going to have to learn by getting thrown straight into the fire.

Fresh fall camp faces: Alfonzo Dennard

With the amount of youth already comprising the majority of NU's cornerback roster, there's no reason an athlete like Alfonzo Dennard can't come in and make an immediate impact. Dennard ended his high school career at Wilcox County (Ga.) High as one of's top 25 cornerbacks in the country, and racked up 11 interceptions between his junior and senior seasons. His best chance at playing time will likely be at left corner, where Hagg has hardly solidified himself as the No. 2 behind Murillo.

Early camp prediction

It could be a long year for Nebraska's cornerbacks, but it also might not be as bad as some people think. The unit is fortunate to have three "warm-up" games (that term is used loosely) before things start to get serious with the likes of Virginia Tech and the Big 12 schedule. That just might be enough time for the young corners to get their feet wet and start to gel as a unit. Realistically though, it will likely take the bulk of the season for the Huskers' corners to catch up mentally with the complex passing attacks of teams like Missouri and Texas Tech. Unfortunately, raw talent only goes so far.

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