Suh’s Departure Shouldn’t be Lost in Preseason QB Discussion
By Todd Neeley
The quarterback spot is a glamour position on the football field, no doubt about it.
While virtually all of the preseason talk so far at Nebraska centers on who will start behind center — Zac Lee, Cody Green or Taylor Martinez — there are question marks that are equally as big on the other side of the ball in the defensive interior.
It’s not every day that teams are forced to replace arguably one of the best defensive tackles to ever play at the collegiate level in Ndamukong Suh.
Suh really was the reason why Nebraska’s defense returned to the top 10 among all units across the country.
And he’s the reason junior Jared Crick had an all-Big 12 season in 2009. Game in and game out Suh drew the double team, leaving Crick virtually one on one. Most of the time Crick responded by chasing down quarterbacks.
It was forgetten in the Suh mania that as a unit, Nebraska’s defensive line was very good. That’s because Barry Turner turned his finest season as a Husker, as well, and went virtually unnoticed. That consistent pressure up front made NU’s back seven look good all season long.
Without Suh, we’ll find out just how far Nebraska has come.
Crick is a nice player, and the guy will play somewhere on Sunday eventually, but he isn’t Suh.
Yeah, I get it, the quarterback spot is important. Who Bo Pelini picks as the starter will set the tone for the offense and ultimately team leadership.
Clearly, though, if Nebraska is going to make a return to the nation’s elite it will rely heavily on its defense, as it has throughout its rich tradition.
The 2009 season was the best illustration as to why defense is so important to this program.
Nebraska’s turmoils on offense last year have been well documented. To put it bluntly, NU couldn’t consistently move the ball even against soft defenses.
In the 13-12 loss to Texas in the conference championship game, Nebraska’s best offense was kicker Alex Henery, who scored enough points for the defense to win the game. NU’s game plan that day was to not screw up on offense, while Suh and company ripped UT to shreds.
Again, Nebraska came within one play of winning the title, solely on Suh’s back.
That’s why finding three or four guys to try to fill that void is the single biggest factor that will ultimately determine NU’s success in 2010. Baker Steinkuhler is the lead guy expected to fill that spot, but he’s the leader among a group of young, inexperienced players up front.
Crick will draw double teams all season long, much like Suh. This means Nebraska will have to be good across the board on defense. But let’s face it, Pelini’s creativity in drawing up defensive strategy is the x factor. He’s already proven that good coaching is everything.
On offense, it’s important that Nebraska find one guy to lead the way — the quarterback-by-committee approach has never really worked at all. It’s a leadership position that will require someone to step up, big time.
The same can be said of the Blackshirt defense.
That’s where this program has quickly gotten back on track, and now is not the time to lose sight of the bigger goal of winning championships.
Nebraska can win a lot of games with the talent it has on offense. But NU will win championships only if a primo is placed on defense.
I’m not saying Pelini was focused on the quarterback spot at Big 12 media days in Dallas Monday to deflect questions about Suh’s absense, but let’s face it, it’s not a bad idea to talk about the QB spot when you’ve got a huge hole to fill on the other side of the ball.
Sometimes distraction can be a good thing.