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March 1, 2013

Spring preview: Linebacker

As the start of spring practice on Mar. 2 draws closer, HuskerOnline.com continues our in-depth look at each position with our 2013 spring position previews.

Today, we analyze and breakdown the linebacker position heading into spring practice.

What we know right now: It's hard to think of a time in Nebraska's football history where the linebacker position has turned over this much in one season. The Huskers graduated four scholarship fifth-year senior linebackers that started a combined 62 games over their career and racked up 246 total tackles in 2012.

Only three linebackers return in 2013 with limited game experience led by sophomore David Santos (24 tackles) and juniors Trevor Roach (5 tackles) and Zaire Anderson (4 tackles).

A large infusion of talent and youth is set to take over the linebacker position starting this spring led by Santos, Anderson, redshirt freshmen Michael Rose, Thomas Brown, Jared Afalava and true freshman Courtney Love.

This may arguably be the most exciting position battle to watch, as so many of these players have the potential to breakout, and it's only going to get more exciting in the fall when fellow incoming four-star freshmen Josh Banderas and Marcus Newby join the race.

Head coach Bo Pelini expects a lot out of this group, and even though they lack the experience it's a safe assumption there is more natural ability in this group than what we saw a year ago.

Biggest question to answer: The biggest question we don't know is how will Pelini use these guys? Will he still match personnel, or is there enough talent in this group that he could keep more linebackers on the field in typical nickel and dime situations?

If one thing is certain, we know this race is going to go all the way up until the end of fall camp in August.

Spring dark horse: My spring dark horse is Brown. As a true freshman he was voted the defensive scout team player of the year. At a speaking event earlier this season graduate assistant Joe Ganz called Brown "unblockable" on the scout team and if not for an ankle injury he suffered in fall camp we may have seen play as a true freshman.

Brown also has the ability to play in a hybrid rush end role, as he appears to be a quicker and more athletic version of Eric Martin.


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