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Winning the West: Who must step up on defense in 2019?

Discussion in 'Football' started by ShortSideOption, Jan 7, 2019.

  1. ShortSideOption

    ShortSideOption All Big 10 10 Year Member

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    Well, this is going to be met with a lot of debate, so it will be interesting to see where it goes. I certainly have different thoughts from what the poll ended up stating:

    The defense is the biggest worry heading into 2019, offensively we will be fine. But we literally lose someone at every spot except cornerback. We lost 5 of our top 6 tacklers. We lose our top 3 safeties. We lose our only OLB that started every game. We lose an ILB that started since he was a freshman. With over 100+ starts gone, it's a dicey situation from a defense that already didn't show well in 2018. People can say "well we aren't losing anyone that great", but my counter would be "they are being replaced by people that couldn't beat them out or are in the 2019 recruiting class." Scary. All that said, another year in the system, another year in the S&C program, I expect us to be better. Here's my biggest worry ranked down to the last:

    1) ILB Dedrick Young
    - And I can already hear people complaining about my list first name in. Dedrick Young is leaving Nebraska starting since a freshman, and sitting 11th best on unassisted tackles in the history of our program. He played the most snaps by any ILB in 2018, was our best coverage LB according to pro football focus grades, and was our best tackler at ILB according to PFF, and it wasn't even close. That's tough to replace. For as much flack as he caught, no one could unseat him that was behind him. People say "that should show you just how bad our depth is", and I would agree, and that's why I have this spot as my #1 concern heading into 2019 despite the return of Mo Barry. Furthering my concern, ILB is one of 5 position groups we lose someone at on defense. Of the positions that play 2 players at a time, ILB has the fewest scholarship guys returning (6), and 50% of those scholarships are to true freshman, add another 16% to someone coming off a knee injury, and losing Weinmaster to retirement who I didn't even count. DE has 11 guys on scholarship, but only 3 are true freshmen. OLB has 10 on scholarship and only 2 true freshmen right now. Safety is close with 7 on scholarship but only a couple true freshmen.

    If Will Honas doesn't blow his knee out last year, Young's departure is probably 3rd or 4th of my worries on the defense. As it stands, we have to trust that either Honas will be ok (who couldn't beat Young out while healthy). Collin Miller figures out what he's doing, even though he couldn't beat Young out in 2018. Ruud has done everything he can bringing in one of the best ILB classes in the country. Nick Henrich, Jackson Hannah, and Garrett Snodgrass will have every chance to not redshirt in 2019. Ruud also convinced Reimers to walk-on and bypass his scholarship to South Dakota State. But the truth is we are replacing Young with true freshmen or two guys that couldn't beat him out last year. Who do we have?

    Will Honas - If not for his injury, I would feel all sorts of ok here. But he's just such a big question mark since you don't know what you are going to get from him.

    Collin MIller - There's a rumor out there that the more reps Miller got, the better he became. Well, he will have his chance this spring as he will start out with the 1s on day 1. Would love for him to take the next step. Miller, who was the scout team MVP his freshman year rushing the passer always seemed more like an OLB in a 3-4 to me, but this is the second staff to have him on the inside. And i'm just a message board guy.

    Nick Henrich - A 2019 recruit that "has the best linebacker film i've seen" per a guy that was involved with his recruitment. The issue for NH is he is coming off a knee injury, and is a little light to take on B1G offensive linemen at this point. Will he have time to put on the necessary weight? Because he's a good enough football player. He will get here in the spring to help himself out.

    Jackson Hannah - Another gem in the 2019 recruiting class, this kid has played all over and has the size to be a factor immediately. The issue is, he won't be here in the spring like Henrich. He can also be moved outside depending on how things look there, but we need a ton of help inside, and it gets even worse when Barry graduates after this season.

    Garrett Snodgrass - In my opinion he will need some time to develop, but this could be one of those stories where he gets even better going against great competition.

    Luke Reimer - This is a really good get, and probably will need some time to get acclimated, but we are so thin he may get his shot.

    Joey Johnson - He was put at OLB, but we are so thin at ILB there will be a position switch or two this spring. He's a candidate even tho OLB isn't exactly bursting at the seams with talent either.

    2) Safeties Antonio Reed, Tre Neal, Aaron Williams

    - And I agree with the poll here, safety is a huge concern. If not for Honas blowing out his knee, this would be #1 for me. We lose Antonio Reed, Tre Neal, and Aaron Williams. That's not good, usually you are getting one of your top 3 guys back at a position, but here we are. One of the things that made me slightly less concerned is that it has better "veteran depth" at the spot compared to ILB. But the injury bug hit really hard and stunted the development of our top safety class from 2018. Before 2018 started, Frost said we had a top 5 safety class in the country, which makes this again less of a concern. However, our two true freshmen safeties that came in suffered season-ending injuries which probably stunted their development a little, one of which is a game time decision for the spring which doesn't help. Make no mistake, this is as big of a deal as ILB, we just have a few more options that aren't true freshmen to help us deal with it. Someone could certainly convince me that since we lose both starters here instead of just one at ILB, it's a bigger worry, but for now it's #2 for me. Who do we got?

    Deontai Williams - He's going to have to figure out what he's doing in 2019. And I think he can. He was our most dynamic safety last year, when he was in the right spot, and unfortunately he wasn't enough to make a bigger impact. If you remember, I always told you that Marcus Newby was our most dynamic linebacker at practices, when he hit the pads, the sled, or another player, it just sounded different. But he just couldn't get in the right spot. Hoping Williams gets the kinks worked out, I think he will.

    Marquel Dismuke - Unlike at ILB, we have a four star veteran sitting there with a starting spot open. He's shown flashes of being able to get it done, but also flashes of not being able to. The opportunity is there for him if he wants it.

    Avery Anderson - If he is still here, another 4 star to take a look at to fill the void.

    JoJo Domann - I would prefer us keeping him at OLB, and think our staff will do that. But he gives us some options if the OLB room gets full.

    Cam Jones and CJ Smith - These guys were in some peoples Super 6 as guys that would make an instant impact. Unfortunately, two major injuries forced them out this fall, and I believe both could miss this spring as well. I'm hoping one of these guys gets healed and challenges Dismuke and Anderson for the other spot.

    Pola-Gates, Myles Farmer, Javin Wright, Quinton Newsome - Any of these freshmen have a chance to play right away. Especially if Pola-Gates pulls the trigger like has been expected the past few weeks.

    3) OLB Luke Gifford
    - It's surprising for me to have this one at #3, but I think that's an indication of the spot we are in at ILB and safety. Luke Gifford was our sack leader, team leader, and one of our biggest producers on defense, that doesn't make things easy. All that said, Domann and Ferguson are back and showed some flashes last year where if they can stay healthy, we won't skip a beat here. But who else can we rely on if we count Domann and Ferguson as starters?

    Caleb Tannor - The much celebrated commitment of 4 star Tannor from Georgia had many Husker fans thinking we had our situational pass rusher off the edge to help us. He didn't quite get to where we thought he could, but another year in S&C should help. I would expect in year 2, which is typically the biggest jump for players, at the very least we could get him in as a very productive situational player. If not challenging Domann or Ferguson for a starting spot, and at the very least spelling them during injury.

    Breon Dixon - Here's my Eric Martin/Marcus Newby again. Talent-wise, not sure it gets better than him at this position for us. But he has to become a good teammate and do what's asked of him on and off the field. Massive spring for Dixon.

    Alex Davis - I only put him third on this list because I would prefer a younger guy to step up, but he has the playing experience to give us some options here. He was frustrating to watch at times, but again he was in his fourth system in four years. Maybe year 2 of the same system will help?

    Alexander and Jefferson - If here, they will ride out their scholarship for another season.

    David Alston - Had an injury that nagged him midway thru the season so I have little information here, but would be a nice surprise to see him pushing some guys.

    Garrett Nelson - I think he eventually gets down to DE, as I think he is Ben Stille 2.0. However, he's not as tall as Stille, so that may not be doable. He will need a year then be ready to challenge. He is here in the spring tho.

    Jamin Graham - I can't tell if I like his film or not. So i'm sure he will be a stud.

    4) NG Mick Stoltenberg and Peyton Newell
    - The lynchpin position of the defense, this would probably have been higher if not for him only playing 4 games there. Our rush defense got worse without him, but we actually won games when he didn't play there. Not sure it was solely on Mick, just pointing that out. Who can replace him?

    Carlos Davis - Let's start with who actually replaced him, CDavis. Now, Davis is better suited for DE, but stepped up nicely to help in Stoltenbergs absence. Would be nice if we can have someone step up and slide Davis outside.

    Darrion Daniels - The grad transfer from Oklahoma State has had rave reviews from Cowboys fans about how much he will be missed. If he can be on the field consistently unlike his brother, we may have something here.

    Damion Daniels - Daniels' snaps per game actually went down with Stoltenberg out, which is crazy. He needs to get to the 25 snaps a game range before we can count on him.

    Vaha Vainuku - Not expecting a ton here as he's moved from defense to offense to defense to whatever.

    Ethan Piper - Piper has the frame to put on some weight and is athletic as heck. But if he is on defense he will start out at DE.

    Matthew Pola-Mao - The cousin of Pola-Gates would be a nice 4 star addition to an already stacked DL class.

    5) DE Freedom Akinmoladun
    - Really not worried about this spot at all. However, the injury bug did hit quite a few guys including both of our true freshmen. Daishon Neal, Deontre Thomas, Casey Rogers, Tate Wildeman, they all had season ending injuries and stunted development. While Thomas could have played later in the year but chose to redshirt, it would have been nice to get him ready. Glass is half-full, at least he has another year of eligibility.

    Carlos Davis, Khalil Davis, Ben Stille - 3 guys that played a ton for us last year are back. If we can't make this work, what do we do.

    Deontre Thomas - I have been high on him since his freshmen season, time for him to assert himself to start in 2020. I think he will.

    Tate Wildeman - Season ending blown knee stunted his development, but he's one i'm expecting a lot from. With the veterans we have back, it gives us a chance to ease him into things. But a four star recruit we will be needing in 2020.

    Daishon Neal - Season ending knee injury, we will see if he can get in the rotation for 2019.

    Casey Rogers - Some say he has more upside than Wildeman, need to get him on the field to develop him if we are going to make that reality.

    Ty Robinson - He is good enough to play as a true freshman, but will he? This may be a good use of the 4 game redshirt rule with us having so many veteran guys back.

    Mosai Newsome, Ethan Piper, Brant Banks - I really like Newsomes film, Piper may take a year, and Banks has a long ways to go defensively in my opinion. But these true freshmen will benefit from a year in the S&C department.

    There's just so much i'm worried about. Again, I hear the "we didn't lose anyone that great", but that doesn't give me a ton of confidence for the people that couldn't beat them out that will now be relied on in 2019. There's an old saying that if you are good in the middle of your defense, you won't have any worries. We lose our NG, ILB, and both safeties.

    But let me glass is half-full this, this will be the first time we have ran the same defense in consecutive seasons in 6 years. That is mind-blowing. No wonder kids looked lost at times. That's on the administration. Pelini, Banker 4-3, Banker 4-3 rugby tackling, Diaco, Chinander. If for nothing else, we will be better for once at defense because we will have a better idea of what we are doing.

    Now feel free to argue with me.
  2. CrabHusker

    CrabHusker Blackshirt 5 Year Member

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    I agree with you on Young. For all his limitations, the guy had a pretty good Senior year and never quit playing. He looked like a huge liability in Banker's D, then looked lost in Diaco's D, then rallied last year and played fairly consistent football. Not dominant or game changing, but steady.

    I'll make a prediction that the position that is shakiest through October will be the one everyone 'knew' was the biggest issue.
    carrythatweight likes this.
  3. ShortSideOption

    ShortSideOption All Big 10 10 Year Member

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    LOL - i'm expecting a lot of "I told you so's" as well. But I think for me that Dedrick Young is the perfect example of a player that got jerked around in his 4 years here, playing a different position each year. What could he have done in year 2 of a system? We will never know. But the poo-pooing of what he's done is interesting to me. He was a darn good football player, you don't become #11 on the all-time charts being average. He will be our 2019 Tommy Armstrong, where everyone was so anxious to get rid of him because he wasn't quite good enough, then you realize how much you miss him.

    Last edited: Jan 7, 2019
  4. CrabHusker

    CrabHusker Blackshirt 5 Year Member

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    Ohhh, you'll hear 'em.

    I have to admit I was done with him during Diaco's stint and took a few shots myself. It happens. He looked so slow to react and in coverage and I know very well that had as much to do with his confidence and understanding of the system and his reads and responsibilities than it did the fact that he's not a 4.4 guy. It would have been interesting to see what he could have done in this defense for four years. I think we can say that for a lot of kids who've been through Lincoln recently.

    Better days.
  5. AzHusker

    AzHusker All Legend 10 Year Member

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    Both Dedrick and Tommy bled Husker red and worked their tails off. I will always respect them both. Both were products of a dysfunctional organization that had a plethora of identity problems.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2019
  6. ChicagoB1GRed

    ChicagoB1GRed Recruit 5 Year Member

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    In many ways SSO's writeup of the D's prospects, shortcomings, and issues sums up and explains a lot of what's been wrong with the Huskers for over a decade :Frown:

    As CrabHusker said, "Better Days".
    Hville and AzHusker like this.
  7. Always go for 2

    Always go for 2 837th Most Interesting Man on HuskerMax 2 Year Member

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    One argument you continually make that I somewhat disagree with is the "he couldn't beat out the starter last year, how can he be good this year". That assumes that nobody ever improves. We both know that for some guys the light bulb suddenly comes on. Look at Ozigbo.

    I like to take the glass-half-full viewpoint and look forward to seeing which "guys that couldn't beat out the starter last year" suddenly flourish.

    Nice write-up SSO. On a board filled with an odd mixture of sunshine-pumpers and "I'm right and you're and idiot!" guys, you're a welcome dose of honesty and reality.
  8. ShortSideOption

    ShortSideOption All Big 10 10 Year Member

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    I certainly am not saying “if he couldn’t beat out the starter this year, how could he be good next year.” Not sure I’ve ever said that. There should always be improvement from year to year. But that’s my “caution statement” of saying a kid has to absolutely improve just to get to where the starter in 2018 was. That’s really all I’m saying with it. We’ve seen people regress, so I always chuckle a little when people say “Well, Young wasn’t that great so it’s not a huge loss.” That’s where my “he couldn’t even beat Player X out this year” comes from. Just caution that the kid has to improve just to get to where the guy they are writing off was. If he improves and just gets to where the guy that left who everyone is down and negative on, that’s not an improvement to our defense as a whole.

    Good discussion. Didn’t mean for it to come off that way so I’m glad you callled it out.
  9. EastOfEden

    EastOfEden Red Shirt 10 Year Member

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    What I fear is that at this point we cannot point to three stud defensive players at key posiions knowing that they are as good as it gets in the conference. Most teams that have good defenses have two or three all conference types playing every down. For me, that would be a NG, a pass rushing end, and a lock down corner (wioth current offenses you may need two of these) and if we were lucky, at least a good to very good cover LB or two. Since we only had the LB part of that last year (our NG played hurt most of the time), I guess we don't worry about replacing guys at those positions, but that may just be semantics. Maybe a transfer or someone else will fill in the NG spot but that is unknown at this point.

    I think my difference with your analysis is that you have a much better feel than I for who will fill certain spots, so are not as worried as I about many of them. Maybe if I knew as much as you about some of the guys that didn't play all that much, I would not be so concerned. But at this point, I still haven't seen a stud NG, pass rusher or lock down corner playing for this defense.
  10. joncarl

    joncarl Nobody important 10 Year Member

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    Not knowing alot about who was actually supposed to be where? My comment on Young was he seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time alot. Then he would pull an awesome play out his backside, then go back to running to, only God knows where.
    inthedeed likes this.
  11. ShortSideOption

    ShortSideOption All Big 10 10 Year Member

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    Trust me, there will be a pleasant surprise or two that I probably forgot about to help. There’s going to be someone that steps their game up like Mo Barry that will make us feel better somewhere.
  12. ColombianHusker

    ColombianHusker Throw the damn bones! 2 Year Member

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    Great information.Thanks SSO!
  13. ShortSideOption

    ShortSideOption All Big 10 10 Year Member

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    That’s all fair. It just worries me he has those mistakes and still started. Weinmaster back or Honas not injured and this is probably #4 for me.
    joncarl likes this.
  14. LarstheRed

    LarstheRed Junior Varsity 5 Year Member

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    I look at some of those who we thought at risk of losing their spots, but didn't, and consider 'why'. Had Honas not blown his knee, would he have taken snaps away? I'm sure he would have, and by doing so, probably helped Young be a player functioning at a higher level. Would the DL have had better results if Davis not been needed to fill in at NG, which would have brought more pop at DE? I think so. The same could be said for Smith and Jones getting hurt. They may not have bumped the starters, but they definitely could have gotten some snaps and helped those starters stay fresher and play better. And I don't really know how to explain Tannor not playing more. Unless the staff was just trying to keep him from getting physically blown up and losing some confidence, I can't see a need to keep Davis on the field.

    I totally agree, we have some huge question marks, and the lack of meaningful playing time in some of those positions is frightening, but as you said, just being in a system for 2 full years will do wonders for a guy. Many of those young guys will be getting close to that.
  15. Hville

    Hville Junior Varsity 2 Year Member

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    i'll admit I'm not big into recruiting and talent evaluation. I totally get we are void of experience and I'm a big believer in SSO's comments on being in a consistent defensive scheme and coaches for 2 years in a row. In fact I rely on @ShortSideOption talent evaluation for most all of my personnel assessment. However here is the thing. In past years when we started looking at who could fill the holes.......I didn't even recognize many of the names. Maybe I'm paying attention more but it seems like we have a lot of depth and talent that just hasn't been in the position to step up whether it was youth, experience or injuries.

    A good example is Safety. SSO's number 2 concern. I understand the lack of experience there but he laid out a 10 deep and I recognize about 8 of them. Surely we can get a few of them to step up considering how many stars many of them had. I don't think this will be a killer defense this year but I have a feeling we could move up from our 94th ranking last year. No reason that with less mistakes by the offense and more consistent play by the defense we can't save 60-70 yards a game. Especially with the schedule. That moves us inside the top 50. OU lost 1 game regular season with the 114th ranked defense.

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