In hindsight, it seems unfathomable.
There was a time when ex-Husker weakside linebacker Lavonte David was, well, sometimes clueless on the field.
"My understanding is, in his first few games here, he was just flying around making tackles, but had a lot of mental errors because he wasn't quite lined up where he needed to be," said second-year Nebraska linebackers coach Ross Els, who wasn't on hand in 2010 when David exploded onto the scene fresh out of junior college.
"Well, at this point, it's going be the same with Zaire Anderson," Els said. "He has a good base of knowledge, but doesn't know our system."
In the coming weeks, Anderson, a touted junior-college transfer linebacker, must learn where to line up and exactly how he fits into each individual alignment.
"Once he gets all that down, I think he'll be a pretty good player," Els said.
A pretty good player? Nebraska fans hope for a bit more than "pretty good" from Anderson, like David a weakside backer. Fans hope the same about juco transfer cornerback Mohammed Seisay.
They hope Anderson and Seisay, the only juco transfers in Nebraska's class of 2012, are more than "pretty good," because although the Husker defense is far from bereft of talent, it clearly could use a few more proven playmakers — difference-makers — the type that end up on all-conference and All-America teams. Guys like David.
Perhaps an infusion of junior-college talent will add big-play spice. Then again, we all know juco recruiting can be especially unpredictable. For every Mike Rozier (Coffeyville, Kan., Junior College), there's a Brian Knuckles (Coffeyville).
Brian Knuckles? Exactly.
Teams that lean on junior-college players to help immediately face inherent risks. Consider the big picture. At the juco level, coaches tend to keep schemes relatively basic, knowing that players will be in the program for only a couple seasons, if that.
"They kind of let the guys just play," said first-year Nebraska secondary coach Terry Joseph, who has been a recruiting coordinator at Louisiana Tech and Tennessee. "Then when they get to a major university, the systems become a little bit more involved. When they come in, the first thing they have to learn is to play within a system."
There's another common-sense element to consider. Call it the new-kid-on-the-block syndrome. Indeed, here comes the new guy, who happens to be an older guy, relatively speaking.
"That can be a little uncomfortable (for transfers)," Joseph said. "They have to settle in socially. That's a challenge. The other guys are saying, 'This is an outsider coming in. This guy's developed (physically). He's looking for immediate playing time.'
"That's why when you recruit junior-college guys, the mix has to be right for your program."
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Seisay, who played last season at Eastern Arizona Junior College, would seem a nice fit for essentially any program. He possesses excellent size and speed and has started at the FBS level — in 2010 as a redshirt freshman at Memphis. His credentials and physical attributes suggest the potential to be an immediate difference-maker.
Moreover, Seisay seems a nice fit for the Big Ten, where rugged, run-oriented teams like to pack "the box" while pitting physical receivers against smaller cornerbacks on the perimeter. Seisay, though, likely won't be pushed around.
Joseph isn't handing Seisay a starting job. As of the middle of last week, junior Andrew Green, a 10-game starter last season, led a crew of about a half-dozen corners vying for significant playing time.
Meanwhile, Anderson and redshirt freshman David Santos are in heated competition for playing time behind senior Alonzo Whaley. Can Anderson, from Riverside (Calif.) Community College, climb the depth chart as quickly as David did after he arrived on campus in the summer of 2010? Early reviews on Anderson are positive. But the climb is difficult.
Weakside linebacker can be a daunting challenge to learn, in large part because he operates relatively close to the line of scrimmage, where action occurs quickly. Linebackers must think and react in kind lest they get run over by a hard-charging running back.
"That part — the physical nature — Zaire can handle," Els said. "It's just making sure he knows what movement we have going on in the defensive line and how he fits in our coverage scheme.
"We knew when we recruited him how well he ran and how well he tackled. He was an intelligent player when we met with him. But until you go against real good competition, it's kind of hard to tell how physical a kid is.
"He's physical. There's no question about it."
Els notes the 5-11, 220-pound Anderson's build resembles David's. That said, it would be a miracle if Anderson matches David's production — 285 tackles in his two seasons at NU. David this week was named a starter for the NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Yeah, David now has a clue.
"If you're going to be compared to somebody, that's not a bad person to be compared to," Els said.