As Jason Ankrah looked down the defensive line Saturday, the senior saw teammates like Kevin Williams, Aaron Curry and Avery Moss with him during the first spring practice for Nebraska.
Two Husker sophomores-to-be who played a limited amount last season and a redshirt freshman. Three players who could use his help and draw from his wisdom.
Ankrah knows that changes the way he has to go about his business as he prepares for his third season as a starter at defensive end.
“I wasn’t really a vocal guy and talking this whole 3½ years I’ve been here, but I got no choice but to do it,” Ankrah said. “So I embrace it and I’m happy about it.”
Ankrah will have leadership help from Thad Randle next season, but the senior defensive tackle is recovering from knee surgery and not practicing until August. And veterans such as Cameron Meredith, Baker Steinkuhler and Eric Martin have been replaced by younger and inexperienced linemen such as Williams, Curry, Moss, Vincent Valentine, Greg McMullen and Donovan Vestal.
“Right when we finished playing Georgia (in the Capital One Bowl), I already knew,” Ankrah said. “Me and Thad are the only seniors, and Thad is not in spring ball. So I’m the one who has to step up, bring the young guys with me, but also make the older guys step up as well.”
Both Meredith and Ankrah dabbled with playing inside last fall because of the Huskers’ lack of depth at tackle. Meredith actually finished the season taking a good chunk of snaps there.
It’s been thought that Ankrah might do some of the same going forward, but the 6-foot-4, 265-pounder shrugged at the notion Saturday.
“I’m a D-end as far as I know,” he said. “It’s just more for creating mismatches, is when I’ll be going inside. For third downs. We haven’t really schooled on that yet, but that’s what I think it’s going to be.”