Nebraska Cornhuskers 2016 Spring Practice Positional Preview: Defensive Line

Following the departure of several key players, sophomore Freedom Akinmoladun is set to anchor the Blackshirts up front

When studying the 2015 Nebraska Cornhuskers' deficiencies, there’s one place you won’t find many. That would be at defensive line. NFL talent, high-motor intensity and a rising star helped the Blackshirts have one bright spot.

 

2015 Summary

While Nebraska’s pass defense was absolutely abhorrent, it was very tough to bust through the Blackshirts on the ground, as the Big Red finished ninth in the nation in rushing defense, allowing only 110 yards per game. On five occasions, the opposition didn’t even manage to eclipse the 100-yard mark.

 

This was largely due to the combination of Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine at defensive tackle and the “hair on fire” work of senior Jack Gangwish at defensive end.

 

Greg McMullen attempted to work from the other outside spot, but was a step slow. This resulted in moving him inside to spell Collins and Valentine, but also allowed for the breakout of former tight end Freedom Akinmoladun.

 

While Gangwish was a force to be reckoned with on the ground, Akinmoladun was the only end that stuck out as giving the Blackshirts a potential pass rush.

 

Key Departures: Maliek Collins, Vincent Valentine, Jack Gangwish

 

Key Returners for 2016: Freedom Akinmoladun (So.), Greg McMullen (Sr.), Kevin Maurice (Sr.), Kevin Williams (Sr.)

 

2016 Outlook

With the loss of Collins and Valentine to the NFL, it would seem that new defensive line coach John Parrella is in a pickle when it comes to putting together a quality line. However, this is not the case.

Akinmoladun likely keeps his end spot and McMullen remains useful on the inside. Maurice and Williams are also more than serviceable as they spent time working behind the two departed soon-to-be-NFLers.

 

Khalil and Carlos Davis, two brothers out of Blue Springs, Mo. , are a duo of 290-pound-plus tackles that can literally do backflips. The two redshirted last year but look to be inserted this year and cause a ruckus.

 

The key questions are who will fill the absence of Gangwish and can the Blackshirts finally get a pass rush from that person?

 

Position Grade for 2016: B

 

— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to like his Facebook page follow him on Twitter (@eightlaces) and on Periscope (eightlaces).

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