Our countdown of the spring’s top position battles at Nebraska has visited the offensive backfield for the past two days.
The next stop takes us to the secondary, where the Huskers have questions at cornerback and potential battles looming at the No. 2 spot on our list:
The storylines: Cooper, the Huskers’ top tackler in 2013, is a lock to start. And while Nebraska coaches don’t differentiate in title between the two safety positions, Cooper plays the traditional role of a strong safety.
He’s at his best when moving downhill and tackles well in space, as evidenced by his team-best 52 solo tackles. He also recorded five tackles behind the line of scrimmage and figures to team with Josh Mitchell as the leaders in the secondary.
Opposite Cooper, the race is on. Harvey Jackson and Charles Jackson have received opportunities to take hold of the spot. Harvey Jackson started three games last season, recording 33 tackles, but never claimed the position over the departed Andrew Green. Charles Jackson, whose ceiling rates as high as any defensive back on the roster, has yet to show the consistency required to earn quality minutes.
Alexander was something of a breakout performer last season as a freshman, with 34 tackles and flashes of big-play ability.
Cockrell, the new guy out of junior college, gets a chance in the spring to earn an edge over fellow new signee Luke Gifford.
And the redshirt freshmen are intriguing. Martinez reputedly possesses the same kind of speed that allowed his brother, Taylor, to rush for nearly 3,000 yards and shatter Nebraska’s school record for total offense. Singleton earned strong reviews during his first fall in Lincoln, especially late in the year.
The outlook: The safe prediction says that Alexander or Harvey Jackson will win a starting safety spot by August.
New secondary coach Charlton Warren could benefit plenty, though, from an awakening by Charles Jackson or a surprisingly quick rise out of Singleton. Either is a possibility.
A wild card here is Nathan Gerry, the sophomore safety-turned-linebacker who, with lots of depth at linebacker, might shift back into the secondary on a permanent basis or contribute more as part of the Huskers’ dime package.
Countdown of Nebraska position battles to watch in spring practice:
No. 5: Outside linebacker
No. 4: Quarterback
No. 3: Backup I-back