Time to take stock of what the Huskers lost, what returns, and what might be coming in 2017, while counting up some scholarships.
Today's position group of focus: John Parrella's defensive line.
Departures: Defensive end — Ross Dzuris. Defensive tackle — Kevin Maurice, Logan Rath.
D-end scholarship count (7): Seniors — A.J. Natter. Juniors — Freedom Akinmoladun, Sedrick King. Sophomores — Alex Davis, DaiShon Neal. Redshirt freshmen — Collin Miller, Ben Stille.
D-tackle scholarship count (4): Juniors — Mick Stoltenberg, Peyton Newell. Sophomores — Carlos Davis, Khalil Davis.
Walk-on watch: Fyn Anderson, so.
Recruits in current class: D-end — Guy Thomas. D-tackle — Deontre Thomas, Deiontae Watts.
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Overview: The loss of Kevin Maurice shouldn't be undersold, but there seems a formidable foundation on the inside of this Husker D-line, starting with Carlos Davis, Stoltenberg and Khalil Davis. Carlos Davis, in particular, has shown the signs of being a special player as he enters his third year in the program.
But … depth needs to be built up. Stoltenberg talked about it after the bowl. There will be just four scholarship defensive tackles on NU's roster during the spring. This is a league of big bodies, and honestly, one position where the Huskers walked away pretty clean healthwise this year was defensive tackle. You can't always count on that.
The search for difference-makers at defensive end also remains. Give credit to the departing Dzuris for always playing hard, leading the team in both tackles for loss (13½) and sacks (5½). Someone has to step into that end spot opposite Akinmoladun, who had four sacks and a team-leading 10 QB hurries. Alex Davis might be the first option. He arrived in Lincoln as more of a raw prospect but is now in his third year here and played some key snaps this season.
King saw some action and might need to see more of it now. Omaha Central grad Neal also has a big offseason ahead as he tries to make his case.
One name to keep in mind is Collin Miller, who was one of the scout-team defensive MVPs this year during a redshirt season. Danny Langsdorf said Miller proved difficult for the O-line to block at times.
In the meantime, NU needs to hang on to the D-end commitment it still has, Guy Thomas of Miami, while looking for a big late addition at a position where freaks are wanted yet aren't exactly found on your nearby park tree.