Players to watch in spring practice: No. 2

Countdown season continues as we near the end of our examination this week of the top players to watch in spring practice for Nebraska.

We’ve looked already at a young running back and two defenders in line to break through in 2014. Next on our list, at No. 2, another defensive player:

Senior linebacker Zaire Anderson

Why to watch: Anderson, in some ways, already enjoyed his breakout moment at Nebraska. It happened last season at Michigan as he collected two of the Huskers’ seven sacks. From there, his progress continued, mirroring the improvement of Nebraska’s defense as a whole. Notably, he played well against Iowa and finished the season with 52 tackles. But like the linebackers as a whole, a sense exists that Anderson has much more to offer.

What to watch: His athleticism ranks high, but Anderson’s strong play so far has come in spurts -- like the Michigan game and his 10-tackle showing off the bench last September against South Dakota State. Nebraska coaches want to see Anderson play with consistency from week to week. If he does, the former junior-college All-American may rate as the No. 1 wild card on this defensive unit. His emergence would open the possibility for many options that involve a sudden surplus of linebackers.

What to expect: Anderson ought to treat this year like it’s a gift. He arrived in Lincoln with two years of eligibility and played in three games in 2012 before a knee injury allowed him to take a medical redshirt. As a result, he’s got a chance to play his senior year in the spotlight and gain notice unlike anything that last season offered amid an inexperienced unit. That alone should motivate Anderson, not to mention the promise of a much-improved defense, in particular the linebackers. Look for him to play with an edge this spring.

Countdown of Nebraska players to watch in spring practice:

No. 5: RB Terrell Newby

No. 4: S Charles Jackson

No. 3: DE Joe Keels