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August 4, 2011

Fall camp preview: Cornerback

Nebraska's cornerback position features one of the faces of the team and one of the most lauded defensive backs in all of college football in senior Alfonzo Dennard. After him, though, there are a lot of questions for the Huskers to answer over the next three weeks of fall camp.

Here's an early look how things might shake out at the cornerback position when the Huskers open up fall camp on Saturday.

Biggest question: Is Evans ready to start?
Coming out of spring practice, many penciled in sophomore Ciante Evans as the guy who would start opposite Dennard at the other cornerback spot. A big reason for that was how he responded when thrown into the starting lineup last year when Dennard was out with an injury. Evans showed he could hang at the D-I level just months out of high school and that he could quickly pick up NU's defense and develop in the system. However, he's still only a true sophomore who's played in just eight career games, and he'll also have to show he's strong and physical enough to go up against the big, aggressive receivers of the Big Ten Conference.
What we know right now: Dennard is the man
While two of his defensive teammates have both received their share of acclaim over the offseason, few defensive backs in the country have earned as much praise as Dennard coming into fall camp. Dennard's stock went through the roof last season despite being the target of every opposing quarterback while playing opposite Prince Amukamara, as he finished with 30 tackles, four interceptions and seven pass breakups. He's been named to watch lists for the Bednarik, Nagurski and Thorpe awards, and he's already being projected as a high first-round NFL Draft pick next April. With the inexperience at the other corner spot, Dennard will likely be avoided by opposing passing games more often than not, but as we saw with Amukamara last year, a drop in stats doesn't necessarily mean a drop respect from opponents.
Fresh fall camp faces: Charles Jackson?
While he's listed on Nebraska's preseason roster, the status of freshman Charles Jackson is still up in the air in terms of being eligible to play for the Huskers this season. Should he be able to qualify academically in time for the start the of the fall semester, there's a chance he could make an impact right away, but at this point there is no indication of that happening.
Early camp prediction
While I think Evans is the frontrunner right now to start along with Dennard, he by no means has the job locked up at this point. Nebraska has a handful of guys looking to win the starting spot this fall with guys like Josh Mitchell, Andrew Green, Antonio Bell, Dijon Washington and Anthony Blue. However, I know the coaches love Evans and the way he's been able to pick up the defense so quickly over the past year. Evans performed very well in his playing time last season as a true freshman, and at this point I think it's his job to lose. Look for Green to fill either the third or fourth cornerback spots, with Mitchell, Green, Bell, Washington and Blue competing for the other.



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