May 4, 2011

Spring grade out: Linebacker

As the Nebraska football team moves closer to the start of summer conditioning, continues our daily position grade outs of where things are coming out of spring ball. Today, we breakdown the linebacker position and the positives and 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 | DT | DE |

Overall spring grade: B-

Let's start with the good stuff: senior WILL linebacker Lavonte David is arguably one of the best linebackers in college football and a potential future first-round draft pick. Junior MIKE linebacker Will Compton is a two-year returning starter and knows the defense as well as any player on the roster. Junior BUCK linebacker Sean Fisher missed all of last season due to injury, but is finally back to 100 percent and was regarded as one of Nebraska's better LBs prior to his injury. Now for the not so good: the Huskers really don't have any other proven linebackers behind those three. As good as the starting three may be, the lack of depth after them was one of the major concerns for head coach Bo Pelini this spring.

Spring surprise: Roach's rapid rise

While searching for some dependable linebacker depth throughout spring practice, Nebraska may have found some from a fairly unlikely source. Maybe more than anyone else, redshirt freshman walk-on Trevor Roach had one of the best springs of any Husker linebacker, and put himself in a position to see some quality playing time this season. The Elkhorn, Neb., native started working with the second-team defense by the third week of spring, and eventually became the starting Mike for the Red team in Spring Game. If he can continue his impressive progression, Roach just might be the leading candidate to replace Compton as the starting Mike in a couple years.

Question that still needs answered: Who will provide the depth?

It was one of the biggest questions throughout spring ball, and it's still a major concern heading into fall camp. Roach may have had a great spring, but the fact remains that he has never played a down in a real college football game. Other backup candidates include junior Mike Alonzo Whaley, who saw action in nine games last season with one start, and Buck Graham Stoddard, who's been a key contributor on special teams the past two years. Senior Will Mathew May is a great all-around athlete, but he's still recovering from specialized groin surgery he had in Germany over the summer, though he expects to be back at 100 percent by the time the Huskers open fall camp.

What does the future hold at linebacker?

Compton and Fisher will be back for another year, but Nebraska needs to find some capable backups soon to help fill the enormous void David is going to leave in the defense when he moves on after this season. Looking down the road, there is some reason for optimism about finding that depth. Four-star recruit David Santos has the potential to be the next Lavonte David, as his blend of speed and athleticism makes him a rare talent at the linebacker position. Again, if Roach can continue to surprise and climb his way up the depth chart, he could be the future at the Mike for the Huskers. There may be a lot of questions at linebacker right now, but it at least looks as if there might be some answers coming in the near future.

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