Nebraska got their 2012 season off to a good start with a 49-20 victory over Southern Miss. Following the game, the popular topic amongst Cornhuskers fans was: What happened to the Blackshirts?
Nebraska has been known as a team that would win games with a dominating defense. Their head coach, Bo Pelini, has been known as one of the best defensive coaches in college football.
Since Ndamukong Suh graduated in 2010, the Blackshirts defense has struggled. So what is the problem with Nebraska’s defense?
Has Pelini spent so much time with the rest of the team that he has become a mediocre defensive coach? Are the Blackshirts still having a problem transitioning from a Big 12 defense to a Big Ten defense? Maybe Nebraska just does not have any talent on the defensive side of the football?
I do not think any of those problems are true with the Blackshirts defense.
The two real problems with Nebraska’s defense: Inexperience and their inability to tackle.
Nebraska has many young players who see significant playing time on defense. Whenever a team has young players, there is a growing period that must take place. Nebraska’s defense did not play as poorly on Saturday as most fans think. The Blackshirts only allowed 13 points and 260 total yards.
Once Nebraska is able to get cornerback Mohammed Seisay, linebacker Zaire Anderson and linebacker Jared Afalava into their lineup, the Cornhuskers should improve.
Last week, Nebraska’s linebackers missed too many tackles. We knew the Cornhuskers would miss last season’s stud linebacker, Lavonte David, but most people thought they would be able to find a replacement for him. It did not happen in the Southern Miss game.
Nebraska usually has a closed practice, so it is hard to say if the Cornhuskers need to work more on their tackling.
The transition from last season’s defensive coordinator, Carl Pelini, to John Papuchis this season did not seem to be a problem. The Blackshirts seemed to be in the right position on many plays, but their inability to tackle let Southern Miss continue drives. This showed up the most on third-down plays.
The good news for Cornhusker fans is that this was only the first game of the season. Southern Miss had many new players and a completely new coaching staff. Nebraska had a hard time knowing exactly what to expect in the game last Saturday. This week they'll be more prepared against a UCLA squad who they have game tape on.
However, if the same Blackshirts unit shows up this week, then Nebraska has a huge problem.
Don’t worry Cornhusker fans; it is early in the season. Nebraska will fix their defense and soon enough the offense and defense will be running on all cylinders.
My prediction for this week’s game against UCLA: Nebraska will still struggle on defense, but will have too much firepower for an UCLA team who also has problems on defense.
Nebraska 41 UCLA 31
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