Josh Banderas' development and experience should help make the Cornhuskers' linebacker corps one of the defense's strengths in 2016
Nebraska linebackers coach Trent Bray probably sleeps much more soundly than he did a year ago. His corps has swelled to something that could help take defensive coordinator Mark Banker’s scheme to the next level this fall and help erase some key mistakes from the past.
Heading into the 2015 season, depth was razor-thin and as young as the Mike Riley era itself. To make matters worse, two of the Cornhuskers’ best went down in fall camp as Michael Rose-Ivey and Josh Banderas suffered groin injuries.
The good news was that Nebraska fans were introduced to some names that they’ve become familiar with and for good reason.
One surprise that showed he belonged on a college football field from day one was Dedrick Young, who started as a true freshman in the season opener versus BYU. The swift, physical Young never gave up his spot as a Blackshirt and made his presence felt all year long.
Nebraska fans frequently got looks at walk-on Chris Weber, who looked every part of a Big Ten linebacker, and Luke Gifford, who performed admirably, but took his lumps. Weber has since earned a scholarship for his merits.
The linebackers struggled to put together complete games due to injuries and the aforementioned lack of experience in taking on college-level players which proved to be frustrating for the team and fans alike.
Key Departures: None
Key Returners for 2016: Josh Banderas (Sr.), Marcus Newby (Jr.), Michael Rose-Ivey (Sr.), Chris Weber (Jr.), Dedrick Young (So.)
Many of those inexperienced linebackers became used to the speed of the college game on an intrasquad level while being kept under the protection of redshirts. Those young men will be introduced to live competition this fall and several should be fun to watch.
Redshirt freshman Mohamed Barry out of Grayson, Ga., has been talked about by fans at length since his arrival. Several Big Red Backers were wondering if he and New Orleans native Tyrin Ferguson might see time as true freshmen in 2015 due to so many unknown variables at their position last season.
Banderas and Rose-Ivey, the veterans of the group, remain salty. The former’s play has improved by leaps and bounds under Bray.
While not a position of extreme strength, Nebraska can now say it has talent and depth at all levels of the corps. Surely there’s someone who will break out in 2016 as well, just as Young did last season.
Position Grade for 2016: B