Meet “Lockdown U”, the self proclaimed nickname for the Nebraska defense. In the first two games of the season, the defense has combined to give up 27 total points. More impressively though, the team is earning the Lockdown U nickname thanks to the seven interceptions in the first two games. Three different players for the Cornhuskers each have two interceptions.
The Cornhuskers break out a 4-3 defense, which is lead by the strong play of the secondary to shut things down. The defensive line is solid though as they have a playmaker in defensive end Ross Dzuris. I do have questions about their line-backing core however, and if the Ducks can break through the first line of defense I see good things coming in the running game.
Yet another carry over from Corvallis leads the way for the Cornhuskers defense. Mark Banker, who spent 12 years as Riley’s defensive coordinator at Oregon State is the one who leads the way for this Nebraska defense. Banker likes the traditional 4-3 style and as we’ve seen with many Mike Riley teams, not a ton of diversity or risk taking. He does work with the safeties, and in the early going of this season has a solid resume booster going thanks to the play of the secondary.
While the passing defense has been good to start the season with turnovers, the run defense has also been very good as well. In the first game of the year against Fresno State the Cornhuskers defense allowed just 31 rushing yards on 26 carries. Yes, that is a whopping average of 1.2 yards per carry. The following week the defense gave up 131 yards on the ground, but that was against 31 rushes so the average was still 4.2 yards per carry.
Obviously something to watch is the playmaking ability of the defense. The seven interceptions in the first two games are obviously very impressive and they’ll be looking to do the same to Dakota Prukop on Saturday. But even outside of interceptions, the passing defense has been stout. In the opener against Fresno State the defense gave up 243 yards on 24/43 passing and then in the second game they allowed 189 yards on 16/32 attempts. Something to watch is how Prukop responds to this pressure in his first road test as an Oregon Duck. The Nebraska defense is head and shoulders better than any that Prukop has seen in his
Three players to watch:
Nathan Gerry, #25, senior safety, 6' 2", 220 lbs.
Leading the Cornhuskers in both tackles and interceptions last year, Gerry is undoubtedly the returning leader of the defense. Last year however, Gerry had the help of a solid defensive line to put pressure on quarterbacks, not sure we’ll see the same thing at least in the early going of this year while the freshmen get their feet under them. Had two interceptions last week against Wyoming after not playing in the season opener.
Kieron Williams, #21, junior safety 6’ 1”, 195 lbs.
Tied for the team lead in interceptions with his two, but takes the lead as he has the most return yards at 21. He also leads the team with his 15 tackles after the first two games. Last year he tied the school record as he racked up three blocked punts, he is an exceptional all around special teams player.
Ross Dzuris #88, senior defensive end, 6' 3", 255 lbs.
The senior leads the way for the Cornhuskers in both tackles for loss as well as sacks after the first games. He currently has five tackles for loss along with his two and a half sacks. He did lead the team last season in tackles for loss after not playing a single down his first three years on campus.
Depth chart takeaways:
· A combined 58 starts by the starting secondary.
· Pretty young on the defensive line, as two sophomores start
· Overall strong depth in the secondary.