The young defense meets fall camp today. In front of it are 24 practices over the course of the next 20 days. Then game week.

Plenty can happen in three weeks. Never doubt it. And don't you dare mark that depth chart in pen.

It's a fascinating fall around here in many ways as freshmen and sophomores are competing for jobs that freshmen and sophomores aren't always competing for at Nebraska.

"It's just realizing that you have to grow up and you have to fill those roles," says one of those sophomores, linebacker David Santos. "It doesn't matter how young we are, really. We're all here for the same reason. We have to hold ourselves accountable to what we're here to do, and that's win games and be the best we can be."

Despite the youth, Bo Pelini has spoken about "being more multiple" this year due to some of the chess pieces he has to work with -- particularly those hybrid players, guys like Randy Gregory, A.J. Natter and Jared Afalava (pictured) who have the body types to potentially present different options.

"At the end of the day, I think we're going to be more athletic on that side of the ball, which I think is going to help us," Pelini said of his defense back at media days in Chicago. "With that, you hope that the youth at times, especially early on, will get offset by the athleticism."

But there is a line to walk with that youth, and Nebraska's head coach knows it. Pelini talked about the coaches knowing when to pump the brakes.

“It’s going to be important making sure we’re not just out running plays. There’s got to be a purpose behind everything we do," Pelini said. "I like our plan going in. At the same time, you have a plan, but as you watch and evaluate and kind of see where you are, you have to be careful, ‘Don’t go too fast. Don’t do too much.’ Giving them the best opportunity to have success.”

Senior defensive back Ciante Evans said youth on the defense can't be an excuse. The captain doesn't differentiate between seniors and freshmen.

If guys really want to learn the defense, they'll learn it even as freshmen. He did.

Evans has heard the chatter out there, especially when things go bad for the Nebraska's defense, that the system is too complex.

It might be a popular narrative with some, but it's not the correct one, Evans thinks.

"Because I played as a freshman. I don't see how anybody else can't play as a freshman," he said. "It's all about the initiative. If you want to play, you're going to find ways to study more film and get into your playbook more. You find ways to get an 'A' on your tests, pass your classes in school. It's the same thing here. You're going to find ways to study your playbook, ask questions, ask your coaches, ask older guys. You're going to find ways to do that if you really care."

Reach Brian Christopherson at or 402-473-7439. Follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.