May 2, 2011

Spring grade out: Defensive tackle

As the Nebraska football team moves closer to the start of summer conditioning, continues our daily position grade outs of where things are at out of spring ball. Today we breakdown the defensive tackle9 position and the positives and the negatives that happened during the four weeks of spring practice and we also preview what lies ahead.

Other spring grades: QB | RB/FB | WR | TE | OL |

Overall spring grade: A

If a position actually gets better when an All-American is sidelined for the bulk of spring practice due to injury, you know it's definitely a position of strength. That was exactly the case for Nebraska's defensive tackles this spring, as star senior Jared Crick missed all but one week of spring ball after suffering an injury. With him temporarily out of the picture, it opened up opportunities for several younger d-tackles to show what they could do with the first-team defense. As a result, the Huskers will head into fall camp arguably seven or even eight deep on the interior line. Needless to say, defensive tackle is one spot where the Huskers have no shortage of depth.

Spring surprise: Williams' fast rise

Regarded as one of the top-40 defensive tackles in the country by coming out of high school last season, there was no question that freshman Kevin Williams was going to be a good player at Nebraska. However, not many expected he'd get there so quickly. After enrolling at UNL a semester early so he could participate in spring ball, Williams immediately established himself in the mix at defensive tackle. At 6-2, 270, the Holland, Ohio, native has looked the part of a D-I player from his first practice, and his quick progression was put on display in the Red-White Spring Game when he finished with one sack and two tackles for loss.

Question that still needs answered: Who all will play?

You can never have enough quality depth at any position, but there is one downside to having as many good players at your disposal as Nebraska has at defensive tackle - how do you play them all? For one, the Huskers aren't exactly going to be looking for ways to take Crick and junior Bake Steinkuhler off the field so they can get some of the younger reps. Secondly, they already have experienced guys like senior Terrence Moore, who started last year's Holiday Bowl, and sophomore Thaddeus Randle, who got more reps than anyone with the first-team defense in Crick's absence. This fall will go a long way in determining how many of NU's talented d-tackles actually make it into the rotation once the season starts.

What does the future hold at defensive tackle?

As already stated, Nebraska has more young and talented defensive tackles than it knows what to do with right now, so the future of the position looks bright for years to come. Williams appears to be already ahead of schedule in becoming the Huskers' next stud defensive tackle, and guys like Randle and redshirt freshmen Chase Rome and Jay Guy will only continue to get better over the next three to four years. When Crick leaves, Steinkuhler will step in as a senior with two years of starting experience under his belt, and don't forget about heralded incoming freshman Todd Peat Jr., who could very well end up as the best of the bunch when all is said and done.

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