HuskerOnline - Spring grade out: Inside linebacker
football Edit

Spring grade out: Inside linebacker

We continue our spring positional grade outs today by giving our final take on Nebraska's inside linebackers.

Other spring grade outs: QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL

What we learned: Huskers are loaded at ILB

Arguably no group on Nebraska's defense benefitted more from the change to Bob Diaco's 3-4 scheme than the linebackers, especially those who took over at the two inside spots.

Veterans Chris Weber and Dedrick Young held down bulk of the first-team work as the top inside linebackers this spring, but the Huskers quickly found they were legitimately two deep at both positions, if not deeper.

Mohamed Barry thrived in the new role and emerged as a budding playmaker, and true freshman Avery Roberts wasted no time securing a No. 2 job after enrolling early this spring.

Others like Greg Simmons and Pernell Jefferson also seemed to take to the inside positions very well, and we still haven't even seen Colin Miller in the role, as he was impressing this winter after moving from defensive end but missed the spring with a toe injury.

Biggest concern: Can the 'QBs' of the defense lead the way?

The move from a 4-3 to the 3-4 has certainly paid off in terms of maximizing the talent and athleticism at linebacker, but there is still a lot of work to be done for the group to fully grasp all of the new responsibilities that come with it.

That holds true for the inside linebackers more than anyone, as Diaco made it clear that they would be the ones essentially making all of the calls and adjustments before the snap.

That means that not only do the ILBs have to know their own responsibilities, they also have be make sure the defensive line is in the right position as well as be on the same page with the secondary in coverage.

The good news is Weber is emerging as one of the top leaders of the defense and should be up to the task, but there are still questions of how well Young and the rest of the inexperienced talent in that unit can pick up all of the other nuances.

Spring surprise: Roberts' impressive debut

One of the top benefits for freshmen who are able to enroll early to participate in spring ball is the head start they get with 15 additional practices leading into the first season.

Nebraska again had a handful of newcomers do that this spring, but no one made a bigger jump than Roberts.

Essentially from the first spring practice on through the Red-White game, the former four-star prospect from Wilmington, Del., got better and better every time he stepped on the field.

Roberts played so well that he established himself as pretty much a lock as the No. 2 behind Weber going into the summer.

He'll obviously have to continue to improve to stay there, but at his current trajectory, that shouldn't be a problem at all.

Looking ahead: Competition will only get tougher

The speed in which the inside linebackers picked up the new defense this spring was already one of the most pleasant surprises for Nebraska.

When you add in the fact that Weber is the only senior in that group, it gets even better.

In fact, five of NU's seven inside linebackers this spring were sophomores or younger, and the unit will add two more pieces this fall with incoming three-star freshmen Willie Hampton and Andrew Ward.

On top of that, Miller will be healthy again and back in the mix for the start of fall camp, making the ILBs arguably one of the deepest and potential-filled positions on Nebraska's roster in 2017.