Despite having to replace both starting safeties, Nebraska will have its deepest, most talented secondary since the 2010 team that featured Prince Amukamara, Alfonzo Dennard, DeJon Gomes and Eric Hagg. Nebraska will have five cornerbacks at their disposal who are capable of starting and at least five capable replacements for the graduated Daimion Stafford and P.J. Smith at safety.
Until the young safeties have time to gain experience, the strength of the secondary is clearly the cornerback position. Senior team captain Ciante Evans (5-11, 190), when not manning the 'Peso' position, will be one of the two starting corners in the Huskers base 4-3 defense. Evans, who has played in 35 career games with 20 starts, knows the defense better than anyone on the team. At Big Ten media days, Bo Pelini suggested that Evans knew the 'Peso' position better than the man who made it famous, Eric Hagg. Evans is currently the best all-around defensive back on the roster and took on a large leadership role this past offseason. Evans, who will get a shot in the NFL at free-safety, is fully capable of playing corner but is best utilized at the 'Peso' position.
With Evans being so crucial to the defense at 'Peso', Nebraska will potentially be trying to determine two starters among a talented group. After starting all 12 games for Memphis and earning Conference USA All-Freshman honors, Mohammed Seisay (6-2, 200) transferred to Eastern Arizona College and became one of the most coveted defensive backs in the juco ranks. Seisay was expected to contend for a starting job last year but missed the first two games because of an ankle injury and never really got on track. Long and athletic, Seisay is again in contention for one of those starting spots.
Another defensive back who has taken on the leadership role is junior Josh Mitchell (5-11, 160). The diminutive Mitchell makes up for a lack of ideal size with outstanding athleticism and ball skills. Mitchell, who has a smooth backpedal and quick feet, has played in 21 games with 9 starts, 8 of those starts coming this past season. Mitchell has great hips and can turn and run with speed receivers.
One cornerback to keep an eye on this fall is Auburn transfer Jonathan Rose. Rose (6-1, 190), who was selected to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, played in 9 games as a true freshman for the Tigers in 2011. A consensus four-star recruit, Rose is the most physically impressive cornerback on the Husker roster. An explosive athlete with great range, body length and closing speed, Rose has a reputation for being a very good press corner with the willingness to come up and help in run support. Coming off of a redshirt, how quickly Rose learns the defense likely dictates how long it will be before he locks down a starting spot. Rose has tremendous upside and potential with the frame and skillset of a future NFL player.
Former track star Daniel Davie (6-1, 185) has all of the necessary tools to be a good cornerback. The redshirt sophomore played extensively on special teams this past season while playing behind more experienced upperclassmen. Davie, who has very good speed, length and range, displays good ball skills after his experience playing offense in high school. Still a bit on the raw side, Davie needs to continue to get stronger and work on his technique.
The lone cornerback recruit from the 2013 class is Floridian Boaz Joseph. Joseph (6-1, 190), who also ran track for Cypress Bay High School in Weston, has impressed coaches in camp so far. A bit better in zone coverage than man at this point, Joseph has a lot of potential at the corner spot. Long and athletic with a nice frame, Joseph is a nice piece of clay for coach Terry Joseph to mold over the next four or five years. A long strider from his track background, Joseph does a nice job of recognizing and anticipating routes and turns and locates the ball well when it's in the air. With the upperclassmen ahead of him, despite making noise in camp, Joseph would be a nice redshirt project.
The two men who are slated to take over the starting safety spots are juniors Corey Cooper (6-1, 210) and Harvey Jackson (6-2, 210). The versatile Cooper, who both Rivals and Scout.com rated a four-star prospect, has spent time at safety, cornerback and both dime and nickel packages. Cooper has 4 starts in 25 career games for Nebraska and has shown flashes of being a prototypical safety. Physically impressive with excellent range, Cooper is a very good athlete with solid instincts. Cooper has solid hands and his background as a receiver in high school have helped in his route recognition skills on the college level. An exceptional return specialist in high school, Cooper has the ability to do some damage with the ball in his hands after an interception. Cooper has the physical ability to become one of the better safeties Pelini has coached at Nebraska.
Like Cooper, Harvey Jackson has appeared in 25 games as a Husker with a start last season in the first Wisconsin game. Scout.com rated the Texas native a four-star prospect in 2010. Tall and physically imposing, Jackson has great size, good straight ahead speed and range at safety. Jackson is good in run support and does not shy away from contact. Jackson has a lot of physical tools and has a chance to be a good starter. Has also been a solid special teams player for Nebraska.
Senior Andrew Green (6-0, 195) has made 22 career starts at cornerback, but was moved to safety where his knowledge of the system will benefit a position where coaches do not tolerate mental mistakes. Green is a well-rounded defensive back who is good at making tackles in space. Green is physical with long arms and plays with good straight-line speed. Better in zone coverage with the Huskers, Green should make the transition to safety with little to no difficulty and his experience and leadership will benefit the younger players.
The best athlete on the Nebraska roster could be sophomore Charles Jackson (5-11, 175). Jackson, a Texas native, was a consensus four-star recruit in 2011 but had to wait to enroll at Nebraska until the summer of 2012 while getting his grades in order. The former U.S. Army All-American, Jackson played as a freshman and was arguably the Huskers best special teams player. A natural cornerback, Jackson is an explosive athlete who is versatile enough to play anywhere in the secondary. Has the competitiveness, ball skills, footwork, fluid hips, makeup speed and anticipation skills to be a shutdown cornerback. At the same time, Jackson has shown the ability to be very solid in run support and won't shy away from contact. With continued development, Jackson could have an NFL future. His natural ability, instincts and athleticism are off the charts. As soon as Jackson grasps Pelini's defense a little better, he will be too talented to keep out of the starting lineup either at cornerback or safety.
The only safety recruit from the 2012 class, LeRoy Alexander (6-0, 190) redshirted his first year in the program and is getting some compliments from coaches during fall camp. Alexander is a tall, athletically-built player who could have played several positions on the college level. His versatility and athleticism should serve him well at the safety spot where he can maximize his range and ball skills. Alexander should see the field on special teams this season.
Nebraska brought in three outstanding safety prospects with their 2013 class. D.J. Singleton (6-1, 200) originally signed with Wisconsin out of high school in 2012, but did not enroll due to qualification issues. Following the departure of Bret Bielema, Singleton re-opened his recruitment last winter and signed with Nebraska. Singleton, a New Jersey native who was able to enroll in January and participate in spring practices, was rated a four-star recruit by both Scout.com and ESPN Scouts Inc. Tall with long arms and a nice frame, Singleton could conceivably move to outside linebacker eventually. An outstanding run defender who gets downhill quickly, Singleton has very good football speed and range. Has the toughness and nose for the ball to be a good in the box defender. Needs some work with his pedal and ball skills before he can be expected to be a full-time contributor at safety. Should thrive on special teams while he continues to develop.
Another incoming safety recruit who could eventually make the move to linebacker is South Dakota phenom Nathan Gerry (6-2, 210). Gerry, who has drawn praise this fall from coaches and players alike, will step on campus and already be one of the best size-strength-speed combos on the team. Gerry is the state record-holder for the 100 meters (10.28s). Gerry, who has an outstanding motor, is active and instinctive near the box and will chase the football all over the field. Aggressive in run-support, Gerry can sift and pursue sideline-to-sideline.
Husker quarterback Taylor Martinez, older brother to incoming safety recruit Drake Martinez (6-2, 200) and arguably one of the ten fastest players in college football, recently hinted that Drake might be a shade faster than him. While that might seem like brotherly love, film suggests the claim may be valid. Martinez is tall and long with an excellent frame for development. Instinctive, Martinez makes good reads and takes proper angles to the ball. Like his older brother, Drake is a bit straight-lined with a high-cut frame. Martinez is an athletic safety prospect with good run support skills.
Possible 2013 Depth Chart:
CB: Mohammed Seisay (Sr.), Josh Mitchell (Jr.), Boaz Joseph (Fr.)
CB: Stanley Jean-Baptiste (Sr.), Jonathan Rose (So.), Daniel Davie (So.)
S: Corey Cooper (Jr.), Andrew Green (Sr.), LeRoy Alexander (RFr.)
S: Harvey Jackson (Jr.), Charles Jackson (So.), Nathan Gerry (Fr.)
Peso: Ciante Evans (Sr.), Charles Jackson (So.), Mohammed Seisay (Sr.)
Prior to contributing to HuskerMax, Jeremy Pernell co-founded the all football website N2FL.com. He served as the editor in chief of the college football portion of the website which focused heavily on recruitment and talent analysis, including the NFL Draft. You can email him at N2FL@hotmail.com.