August 6, 2010

CB fall camp preview: Huskers are loaded at corner

When you talk about the biggest strengths not only of Nebraska defense, but its entire team this season, you have to throw the cornerbacks into the mix every time. Behind two all-conference caliber players and a slew of young talent behind them, this might be the deepest and most talented cast of corners NU has had in years.

Here's an early look at what to expect from the Huskers' cornerbacks as they get ready for the start of fall camp on Saturday.

Biggest question: Can Dennard handle the load?

On one side is senior Prince Amukamara, arguably one of the best cornerbacks in college football and an almost certain future first-round draft pick. On the other is junior Alfonzo Dennard. Though neither is a guy opponents will want to go after in the passing game, the default target will be Dennard, at least early in the season. The Rochelle, Ga., native has made huge strides the past couple of years and established himself as one of the better corners in the Big 12. But will he be able to handle to task of teams throwing his way more often than not in avoidance of Amukamara?

What we know right now: Amukamara is a star

By hauling in five interceptions and 11 pass breakups last season, Amukamara caught the nation's attention, and he's since put his name up among college football's top players. It's taken a little longer for him to get to this level than originally hoped, but the Glendale, Ariz., native has finally been able to pair his unquestioned athletic ability with a firm grasp of the defense. As a result, he's becoming a nearly fully complete player, and he should only continue to progress this season. The numbers might not be quite as high as last year, but that will only be because teams are afraid to throw the ball anywhere near Amukamara's direction.
Fresh fall camp faces: Ciante Evans, Josh Mitchell

Nebraska has its next two cornerbacks vying to future Amukamara's in freshmen Ciante Evans and Josh Mitchell. Evans comes in as one of the top prep cornerbacks out of the state of Texas, as he was rated as one of the top-50 corners in the country by Rivals last year. At 5-11, 160, Mitchell a bit undersized, but his speed and agility helped make him the nation's No. 55 cornerback according to Rivals. Both Evans and Mitchell will likely redshirt this year to learn the defense, which has pretty much become standard procedure with freshmen defensive backs at Nebraska.

Early camp prediction

Nebraska has a wonderful luxury of having two top-flight cornerbacks to work with this year. By being able to match Amukamara and Dennard in man coverage, the rest of the defense is freed up for head coach Bo Pelini to dial up the bounty of blitzes he's got stowed away in the playbook. Look for Dennard to really make a big jump this year. With the way he's progressed over the course of his career thus far, he could make the loss of Amukamara next season is little easier to bear by emerging as a first-round talent in his own right.

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