Nebraska vs. Illinois, 10.5.13

Nebraska linebacker David Santos (41) and teammates Michael Rose (bottom) and Harvey Jackson tackle Illinois running back Donovonn Young (5) in the fourth quarter on Oct. 5, 2013, at Memorial Stadium.

The first Husker spring practice goes down Saturday. On the way there, our daily position group primer shines the bright light on the linebackers.

Returning starting experience: David Santos (11 games), Michael Rose (7), Zaire Anderson (6), Josh Banderas (4), Nathan Gerry (3).

The skinny: If rating position group battles by level of intrigue, linebackers are in the conversation to be at the top of the list.

A rotating wheel of inexperience early in 2013, stability was found at season's end. Michael Rose rose to the occasion as the man in the middle, and David Santos found a comfortable home at the WILL spot, where he finished the year second in tackles with 87. While far from perfect, by the bowl game, Nebraska's linebackers were far removed from the mess of September, when basic communication and getting lined up right was challenge enough.

Now comes greater expectations and more competition. Zaire Anderson is still around with one more year to try to become more of an every-down factor. And Josh Banderas, after starting four games as a true freshman, will be determined and has the skill set to push his way back into the starting lineup.

Then there are the redshirt freshmen Marcus Newby and Courtney Love, who drew rave reviews from their peers for some of their freakish athleticism on the scout team a year ago. Had Newby not arrived so late in the process last year, qualifying just before fall classes began, he might already have been on the field in 2013 as the Huskers moved the chess pieces around.

With the additions of Love and Newby adding to the crowd, it makes sense when Husker coach Bo Pelini said Nathan Gerry will play "some safety" this spring.

Spotlighting: Rose. Coming off a redshirt freshman season in which he had 66 tackles, the 5-foot-11, 230-pound Rose possesses many of the traits you want out of your middle linebacker. He has a cool-headed demeanor and communicates well, already emerging as one of the team's lead spokesmen. Rose also knows he'll have to keep his foot on the pedal. Nobody in the linebacker room has a job locked up.

Don't forget: Trevor Roach. The senior's leadership was missed last season after he suffered a season-ending foot injury in the summer. He probably grasps the defense, and responsibilities of his position, better than anyone in the room. Don't count out his potential impact, both on the field and off.

Newcomer watch: Newby. Just revisit this quote from former Husker offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles, who saw Newby each day in practice. "Marcus Newby is one of the most athletic linebackers I’ve seen in awhile," Sirles said. "Moves great laterally, sideline to sideline. There was one time we threw a ball over the middle and he just skied up and picked it. It was like, ‘Holy cow.’”

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


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