Players That Must Improve, 2012 Starting Secondary and Initial Husker Hardball Thoughts

By at February 18, 2012 | 2:44 PM | Print

Players That Must Improve, 2012 Starting Secondary and Initial Husker Hardball Thoughts

This week:

What Husker football player do you feel has to improve the most this offseason?

Brian: It’s not so much a player, as an entire group – the offensive line. Guys like Tyler Moore, Spencer Long and Ryan Klatchko need to step up and not only give people like Andrew Rodriguez and Seung Hoon Choi competition for starting roles, but also build depth that the line seemed to lack as 2011 progressed.

Chris: It’s hard to gauge “improvement” for new guys that will be filling voids this season since we don’t have a lot of evidence of how good they can be in order to make such a conclusion (Zaire Anderson obviously has to play well to fill in for Lavonte David, Mohammed Seisay needs to lock-down one of the corner spots, etc.).

Looking at players who logged significant time last season, it’s safe to say that Taylor Martinez must take a large step forward in order for Nebraska to have a chance at a Big Ten crown. He was an enigma last year, playing extremely well at some points (Ohio State, Northwestern) and looking completely lost at others (Wisconsin and Michigan ).

T-Magic is a redshirt junior now with plenty of experience under his belt. Can he overcome his poor decision-making, cut down on turnovers, break the big runs he had in his freshman campaign and improve his completion percentage on longer throws? If so, Nebraska’s offense can be deadly with the skill at running back, tight end and wide receiver, especially with the addition of Jordan Westerkamp.

On defense, Cameron Meredith needs to improve significantly for Bo’s front four to work properly. Meredith played very well during his sophomore season, but regressed significantly last year. He looked slow and winded by the third quarter of most games which may be due to the staff’s emphasis on bulking up for the rigors of Big Ten play. Whatever the reason, No. 34 needs to be a leader on the defensive line.

Greg: As far as individual improvement, I’d like to see Chase Rome. He has a ton of potential and he needs to display marked improvement next year.

Brandon: Ryan Klachko as I feel he’s the next big thing at center, even as a redshirt freshman. At 6’4” 285, he has plenty of time to pack on 5-10 pounds of muscle while keeping his speed.

I don’t see PJ Mangieri, Cole Pensick or Nick Ash as permanent solutions in the middle of the offensive line. Klachko’s got the physicality, the smarts and the desire to be a great interior lineman for Nebraska. I’m not going to say he’ll be a Rimington Award winner, but he has that level of potential.

Who comprises your starting 2012 defensive backfield (CB and S)?

Brian: Mohammad Seisay isn’t coming here to sit on the pine, folks. He’s starting from the first snap of the season on. The other three? Good question.

PJ Smith should be out there, however the word is that he didn’t quite know what he was doing last year which makes it tough to project him seeing much time. Daimion Stafford has to be considered a lock for a safety.

To start the season, a combination of Ciante Evans and Andrew Green will be out there. Snaps and experience will dictate who takes the spots by the time Arkansas State comes around.

Chris: There are so many variables heading into the spring and summer that it’s hard to nail down anything definitive. Braylon Heard has been moved to cornerback and brings plenty of athleticism. Mohammed Seisay was one of the most coveted JUCO players last year and should be able to make an impact right away.

Stanley Jean-Baptiste showed flashes of brilliance when he was healthy. Additionally, Charles Jackson is rumored to have become eligible to enroll at Nebraska after the highly-coveted corner was unable to qualify last season. At safety, only Daimion Stafford played significant minutes last year.

With all of that in mind, the starters come the first kickoff will likely be Andrew Green and Mohammed Seisay at cornerback with Daimion Stafford and P.J. Smith at safety.

By the time conference play rolls around, look for a starting group of Heard and Seisay at the cornerback spots with Stafford and Corey Cooper at safety.

Greg: Seisay and Green at cornerback, Stafford and Heard (who knows?) at safety.

Brandon: I’ll stick Mohammed Seisay and Andrew Green at cornerback with PJ Smith and Courtney Osborne at safety for now. Green’s spot is up for grabs until the first kickoff and it may not be solidified even then.

Stanley Jean-Baptiste has an awesome frame for a cornerback and Braylon Heard’s move is intriguing. Everyone and their brother wanted him as a defensive back, including Ohio State. Green did improve as 2011 went along, so he’s getting the spot opposite arguable the roster’s best defensive back.

At safety, Smith’s not as cerebral as Austin Cassidy was, but he’s a far better athlete and will make more plays resulting in offensive possession, good field position or points. Osborne gets the nod over Daimion Stafford right now simply due to his time in the system.

Stafford struggled in coverage at times in 2011, but he has an entire offseason to work on his deficiencies. I’d imagine we’ll likely see a mixture of Osborne, Smith and Stafford during the 2012 non-conference schedule.

Considering the difficulties Connie Yori’s team has been facing, how do you see the Lady Huskers’ regular season ending?

Brian: Hopefully this team isn’t hitting a wall. However, after the triple overtime thriller in West Lafayette, it seems that this team has slammed head first into one. Wisconsin comes into Devaney on Sunday. Let’s hope the kinks get worked out. If not, keep them away from Doc, at least.

Chris: In ESPN’s latest projections, Nebraska is listed as a potential No. 6 seed in the women’s NCAA tournament. Three losses in a row spells trouble for the Huskers’ chances of making the dance, though.

The committee likes to take teams that are on a hot streak come tournament time, and while the Huskers have some decent wins to hang their hat on, they’ve struggled at times against top competition.

Three games remain to finish the year. The Huskers need to win two of these games to feel good about their chances.

Greg: They’ll bounce back and finish strong, complete with a decent showing in the Big Ten tournament.

Brandon: I wasn’t anticipating a three-loss skid out of Yori’s team this year, even in Big Ten play. Must be something in the Gatorade down in Lincoln. Regardless, this team can finish the season strong.

They’re set up for a potential 2-1 or 3-0 end to the regular season with games against Wisconsin and Ohio State at home with Michigan State on the road bringing them to either 21 or 22 wins.

Any initial thoughts as Nebraska baseball’s season gets underway?

Brian: All the talk has been wonderful, but eventually you have to walk the walk. Let’s see how this team is sitting after their trip to Corpus Christi next weekend.

Chris: Very excited to start the Erstad era and see how this team stacks up in out of conference play. I’m going out on a limb and saying Nebraska wins the Big Ten in Erstad’s first year through a combination of solid pitching, defense, and small ball.

Erstad appears to be making all the right moves and saying the right things. However, he has no prior Division 1 coaching experience, so it will be vital for him to rely on his top assistants, and great hires, Will Bolt and Ted Silva.

As the team takes the mold of its coach, expect a hard-nosed group who plays smart baseball and accomplishes the little things very well which means plenty of wins in the long run.

Greg: I’m disappointed in the loss to Gonzaga. If this team is going to be successful, they will have to close out games. It’ll come together. Baseball is great that way. Go Big Red!

Brandon: Last night’s loss to the Zags stunk as you always like to see a new coach get his first win right off the bat, pardon the pun, but I think a 2-1 series win would sit with just fine with Erstad. Gonzaga’s no scrub club and it’s going to be beneficial for the Huskers to play a squad of this caliber coming out of the gate as they head down the road.

Regardless of the loss, I’m excited to see what this team can do. One loss isn’t going to damper that enthusiasm.

Brandon: @eightlaces
Brian: @btbowling
Greg: @thehooch36
Chris: @chris_labenz

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