• You do not need to register if you are not going to pay the yearly fee to post. If you register please click here or log in go to "settings" then "my account" then "User Upgrades" and you can renew.

Recruiting 3 year 2019-2021

HuskerInOkieland

All American
10 Year Member
The major question every recruiting season is what positions are our biggest priorities. The biggest mistake people make when answering this question is not understanding that we are not recruiting to fill our CURRENT needs. We are filling our needs for the future. To understand this, we need to project our depth chart 2 or 3 seasons down the road. Where we see holes in the future, that is where we need to concentrate. Holes in our current roster or our immediate future will almost certainly need to be filled by position changes or JUCO’s. Everything else, needs solid HS recruits.

Always beware of positions that look stacked but will be hit hard by attrition down the road. Coaching staffs that do the best job of preparing for such future potential emergencies are the coaching staffs whose programs not only win but win consistently year after year.

This thread is designed to help understand our depth needs looking forward 3 years.


A couple of rules:

Some players may be listed at a secondary position in addition to their primary position. Their names will be surrounded by () at the secondary position. I usually list those players at the end of each position.

When projecting future starters, in many cases I just systematically rotate players up. The purpose is not to show who will start over who, but to show depth. In many cases, I do not show a given player to be starter even though I may strongly believe he will be one. I just rotate names forward at that position.

Starters are listed first in each line. Then the second string. The rest of the reserves are listed denoted by [] around list. Then () players. I do place ??? anywhere in the two-deep that is not filled by a player currently on the roster. Recruits do not count in the two-deep until they are signed.

Signed players not yet on campus (not yet qualified) denoted by underline.

Walk-on players denoted with * after name. Walk-on players do not count in the depth chart until they are on campus.

First and Second team in ALL CAPS. First team and second team separated by ~ symbol.

Except in specific situations, I assumed no future redshirts, early exits for the draft, or Academic casualties.

2019 thru 2021 Depth Charts will be split up into two separate posts for offense and defense:
 

HuskerInOkieland

All American
10 Year Member
DEFENSE

S
2018 GRADUATED: AARON WILLIAMS, ANTONIO REED, TRE NEAL; LEFT TEAM: Cam Jones, C.J. Smith, Corbin Frederick*

RECRUITS-Miles Farmer, Noa Pola-Gates, Tyson Guzman*(Walk-on)

2019 DEONTAI WILLIAMS-RJR & MARQUEL DISMUKE-RJR ~ ERIC LEE-RSR & AVERY ANDERSON-RSR

[Miles Farmer-Fr, Noa Pola-Gates-Fr, Eli Sullivan*-RJr, Reid Karel*-RSr, Lane McCallum*-RSo, Isaiah Stalbird*-RFr, Tyson Guzman*-Fr]

RECRUITS-

2020 DEONTAI WILLIAMS & MARQUEL DISMUKE ~ MILES FARMER & NOA POLA-GATES

[Eli Sullivan*, Lane McCallum*, Isaiah Stalbird*, Tyson Guzman*]

2021 MILES FARMER & NOA POLA-GATES ~ ??? & ???

[Lane McCallum*, Isaiah Stalbird*, Tyson Guzman*]


CB 2018 GRADUATED: None

RECRUITS- Quinton Newsome, Javin Wright

2019 ~ LAMAR JACKSON-SR & ~ DICAPRRIO BOOTLE-RJR ~ CAM TAYLOR-SO & BRAXTON CLARK-RFR

[Tony Butler-RJr, Quinton Newsome-Fr, Javin Wright-Fr, Jeremiah Stovall*-RSr, Ethan Cox*-RSo, Bradley Bunner*-RSo, Phalen Sanford*-RFr]

RECRUITS- Tamon Lynum, Henry Gray, Robert Delancy

2020 ~ DICAPRRIO BOOTLE & CAM TAYLOR-SO ~ BRAXTON CLARK-RFR & TONY BUTLER

[Quinton Newsome, Javin Wright, Ethan Cox*, Bradley Bunner*, Phalen Sanford*]

2021 BRAXTON CLARK & CAM TAYLOR ~ QUINTON NEWSOME & JAVIN WRIGHT

[Ethan Cox*, Bradley Bunner*, Phalen Sanford*]


LB 2018 GRADUATED: LUKE GIFFORD, DEDRICK YOUNG; LEFT TEAM: Breon Dixon, Guy Thomas, Quayshon Alexander, Jacob Weinmaster*, Grant Jordan*, Spencer Jordan*, Anthony Banderas*

RECRUITS- Nick Henrich, Jackson Hannah, Garret Nelson, Garret Snodgrass, Jamin Graham, John Bullock*(Walk-on), Luke Reimer*(Walk-on), Garrett Hustedt*(Walk-on), Nick Leader*(Walk-on), Caden McCormack*(Walk-on), Sam Shurtleff*(Walk-on); TRANSFER- Zach Schlager*(Walk-on)

2019 TYRIN FERGUSON-RSR & MOHAMMED BARRY-RSR & COLLIN MILLER-RJR & ALEX DAVIS-RSR ~ CALEB TANNER-RFR & WILL HONAS-RJR & JOSEPH JOHNSON*-RFR & JOJO DOMANN-RJR

[Pernell Jefferson-RJr, Dave Alston-RFr, Nick Henrich-Fr, Jackson Hannah-Fr, Garret Nelson-Fr, Garret Snodgrass-Fr, Jamin Graham-Fr, Jordan Paup*-RSo, Chris Cassidy*-RFr, Jake Archer*-RFr, Simon Otte*-RFr, Ryan Schommer*-RFr, John Bullock*-Fr, Luke Reimer*-Fr, Garrett Hustedt*-Fr, Nick Leader*-Fr, Caden McCormack*-Fr, Sam Shurtleff*-Fr, Zach Schlager*-So(Ineligible)]

RECRUITS-Blaise Gunnerson, Rodney Groce

2020 CALEB TANNER & COLLIN MILLER & WILL HONAS & JOJO DOMANN ~ GARRETT NELSON & NICK HENRICH & JOSEPH JOHNSON* & DAVE ALSTON

[Pernell Jefferson, Jackson Hannah, Garret Snodgrass, Jamin Graham, Jordan Paup*, Chris Cassidy*, Jake Archer*, Simon Otte*, Ryan Schommer*, John Bullock*, Luke Reimer*, Garrett Hustedt*, Nick Leader*, Caden McCormack*, Sam Shurtleff*, Zach Schlager*]

2021 CALEB TANNER & NICK HENRICH & JACKSON HANNAH & DAVE ALSTON ~ GARRETT NELSON & GARRET SNODGRASS & JOSEPH JOHNSON* & JAMIN GRAHAM

[Jordan Paup*, Chris Cassidy*, Jake Archer*, Simon Otte*, Ryan Schommer*, John Bullock*, Luke Reimer*, Garrett Hustedt*, Nick Leader*, Caden McCormack*, Sam Shurtleff*, Zach Schlager*]


DL 2018 GRADUATED: FREEDOM AKINMOLADUN, MICK STOLTENBERG, Peyton Newell, Matt Jarzynka*; LEFT TEAM: Dylan Owen*

RECRUITS- Mosai Newsom, Ty Robinson, Jahkeem Green(JC-3-2), Jacob Herbek*(Walk-on), Matt Huser*(Walk-on), Eli Richter*(Walk-on); TRANSFER- Darrion Daniels

2019 KHALIL DAVIS-RSR & DERRION DANIELS-RSR & BEN STILLE-RJR ~CARLOS DAVIS-RJR & DAMION DANIELS-RSO & DEONTRE THOMAS-RSO

[Daishon Neal-RSr, Vaha Vainuku-RSr, Chris Walker-RFr, Casey Rogers-RFr, Tate Wildeman-RFr, Ty Robinson-Fr, Mosai Newsom-Fr, Jahkeem Green-RSo,Fyn Anderson*-RSr, Ben Lingenfelter*-RSo, Damian Jackson*-RSo, Colton Feist*-RFr, Jacob Herbek*-Fr, Matt Huser*-Fr, Eli Richter*-Fr]

RECRUITS- Nash Hutmacher, Marquis Black

2020 BEN STILLE & DAMION DANIELS & DEONTRE THOMAS ~ CASEY ROGERS & JAHKEEM GREEN & TY ROBINSON

[Chris Walker, Tate Wildeman, Mosai Newsom, Ben Lingenfelter*, Damian Jackson*, Colton Feist*, Jacob Herbek*, Matt Huser*, Eli Richter*]

RECRUITS- RJ Sorensen

2021 CASEY ROGERS & DAMION DANIELS & DEONTRE THOMAS ~ TATE WILDEMAN & JAHKEEM GREEN & TY ROBINSON

[Chris Walker, Mosai Newsom, Ben Lingenfelter*, Damian Jackson*, Colton Feist*, Jacob Herbek*, Matt Huser*, Eli Richter*]
 
Last edited:

HuskerInOkieland

All American
10 Year Member
OFFENSE

RB
2018 GRADUATED: DEVINE OZIGBO, Mikale Wilbon, Austin Rose*

RECRUITS- Dedrick Mills(JC/2-2), Rahmir Johnson, Ronald Thompkins, Zach Weinmaster*(Walk-on), Cooper Jewett*(Walk-on)

2019 DEDRICK MILLS-RJR ~ MAURICE WASHINGTON-SO

[Wyatt Mazour-RSr, Jaylen Bradley-RSo, Rahmir Johnson-Fr, Ronald Thompkin-Fr, Austin Hemphill*-RSr, Brody Belt*-RFr, Connor Ruth*-RFr, Corbin Ruth*-RSo, Moses Bryant*-RFr, Zach Weinmaster*-Fr, Cooper Jewett*-Fr]

RECRUITS- Sevion Morrison, Marvin Scott III

2020 DEDRICK MILLS ~ MAURICE WASHINGTON

[Jaylen Bradley, Rahmir Johnson, Ronald Thompkin, Brody Belt*, Connor Ruth*, Corbin Ruth*, Moses Bryant*, Zach Weinmaster*, Cooper Jewett*]

2021 MAURICE WASHINGTON ~ RAHMIR JOHNSON

[Jaylen Bradley, Ronald Thompkin, Brody Belt*, Connor Ruth*, Corbin Ruth*, Moses Bryant*, Zach Weinmaster*, Cooper Jewett*]


QB 2018 GRADUATED: None

RECRUITS- Luke McCaffrey, Brayden Miller*(Walk-on)

2019 ADRIAN MARTINEZ-SO ~ NOAH VEDRAL-RSO

[Andrew Bunch*-RJr, Luke McCaffrey-Fr, Matt Masker*-RFr, Brayden Miller*-Fr]

RECRUITS- Logan Smothers

2020 ADRIAN MARTINEZ ~ NOAH VEDRAL

[Andrew Bunch*, Luke McCaffrey, Matt Masker*, Brayden Miller*]

2021 ADRIAN MARTINEZ ~ NOAH VEDRAL

[Luke McCaffrey, Matt Masker*, Brayden Miller*]


WR 2018 GRADUATED: STANLEY MORGAN, Bryan Reimers*; LEFT TEAM: Justin McGriff, Conor Young*, Brandon Robbins*, Chad Alioth*, Andrew Thurman*, Justin Holm*

RECRUITS- Wan'Dale Robinson, Jamie Nance, Demariyon Houston, Darien Chase, Austin Jablonski*(Walk-on), Riley Kinney*(Walk-on); TRANSFER- Kanawai Noa

2019 J.D. SPIELMAN-RSO & KANAWAI NOA-RSR & MIKE WILLIAMS-SR ~ WAN’DALE ROBINSON-FR & KADE WARNER*-RSO & ANDRE HUNT-RFR

[Jaron Woodyard-Sr, Miles Jones-RFr, Jamie Nance-Fr, Jaevon McQuitty-RSo, Demariyon Houston-Fr, Darien Chase-Fr, Todd Honas*-RJr, Ty Chaffin*-RJr, Christian Banker*-RSo, Bennett Folkers*-RFr, Wyatt Liewer*-RFr, Austin Jablonski*-Fr, Riley Kinney*-Fr]

RECRUITS- Zavier Betts, Will Nixon

2020 J.D. SPIELMAN & WAN’DALE ROBINSON & KADE WARNER* ~ ANDRE HUNT & MILES JONES & JAMIE NANCE

[Jaevon McQuitty, Demariyon Houston, Darien Chase, Todd Honas*, Ty Chaffin*, Christian Banker*, Bennett Folkers*, Wyatt Liewer*, Austin Jablonski*, Riley Kinney*]

2021 WAN’DALE ROBINSON & KADE WARNER* & ANDRE HUNT ~ MILES JONES & JAMIE NANCE & JAEVON MCQUITTY

[Demariyon Houston, Darien Chase, Christian Banker*, Bennett Folkers*, Wyatt Liewer*, Austin Jablonski*, Riley Kinney*]


TE 2018 GRADUATED: Bo Kittrell*; LEFT TEAM: Brandon Hohenstein*

RECRUITS- Chris Hickman, John Goodwin*(Walk-on); TRANSFER- Travis Vokolek

2019 JACK STOLL-RJR ~ AUSTIN ALLEN-RSO

[Kurt Rafdal-RSo, Katerian LeGrone-RFr, Travis Vokolek-Jr(not eligible), Chris Hickman-Fr, Bryson Krull*-RFr, Brian Perez*-RSo, John Goodwin*-Fr]

2020 JACK STOLL ~ TRAVIS VOKOLEK

[Austin Allen, Kurt Rafdal, Katerian LeGrone, Travis Vokolek, Chris Hickman, Bryson Krull*, Brian Perez*, John Goodwin*]

2021 TRAVIS VOKOLEK ~ AUSTIN ALLEN

[Kurt Rafdal, Katerian LeGrone, Chris Hickman, Bryson Krull*, Brian Perez*, John Goodwin*]


OL 2018 GRADUATED: JERALD FOSTER, TANNER FARMER , COLE CONRAD; LEFT TEAM: MICHAEL DECKER, Bryan Brokop, Jake Kitten*

RECRUITS- Bryce Benhart-OT, Matthew Anderson-OT, Michael Lynn, Jimmy Fritzsche -OT, Ethan Piper, Brant Banks-OT, Josh Wegener*-OC(Walk-on), Riley Moses*(Walk-on), Garrett Nuss (Walk-on), Noah Stafursky*(Walk-on); TRANSFER- Ian Boerkircher*(Walk-on)

2019 BRENDEN JAIMES(OT)-JR & TRENT HIXSON-RSO & CAMERON JURGENS(OC)-RFR & BOE WILSON-RJR & MATT FARNIOK(OT)-RJR ~ CHRISTIAN GAYLORD(OT)-RSR & JOHN RARIDON-RJR & WILL FARNIOK (OC)-RFR & MATT SICHTERMAN-RSO & BRYCE BENHART(OT)-FR

[Hunter Miller*(OC)-RSo, Broc Bando-RSo, Ethan Piper-Fr, Matthew Anderson(OT)-Fr, Michael Lynn-Fr, Jimmy Fritzsche (OT)-Fr, Brant Banks(OT) -Fr, AJ Forbes*(OC)-RFr, Josh Wegener*(OC)-RJr, Collin Shefke*-RFr, Mitchell Balenger*-RFr, Nick Virka*-RSr, Ian Boerkircher*-RFr, Riley Moses*-Fr, Garrett Nuss -Fr, Noah Stafursky*-Fr]

RECRUITS- Turner Corcoran(OT), Alex Conn(OT)

2020 BRENDEN JAIMES(OT) & TRENT HIXSON & CAMERON JURGENS(OC) & BOE WILSON & MATT FARNIOK(OT) ~ BROC BANDO(OT) & JOHN RARIDON & WILL FARNIOK (OC) & MATT SICHTERMAN & BRYCE BENHART(OT)

[Hunter Miller*(OC), Ethan Piper, Matthew Anderson(OT), Michael Lynn, Jimmy Fritzsche (OT), Brant Banks(OT) , AJ Forbes*(OC), Josh Wegener*(OC), Collin Shefke*, Mitchell Balenger*, Ian Boerkircher*, Riley Moses*, Garrett Nuss , Noah Stafursky*]

RECRUITS- Teddy Prochazka(OT), Henry Lutovsky(OT)

2021 BRYCE BENHART(OT) & TRENT HIXSON & CAMERON JURGENS(OC) & ETHAN PIPER & BROC BANDO(OT) ~ MATTHEW ANDERSON(OT) & HUNTER MILLER* & WILL FARNIOK (OC) & MATT SICHTERMAN & JIMMY FRITZSCHE(OT)

[Michael Lynn, Brant Banks(OT) , AJ Forbes*(OC), Collin Shefke*, Mitchell Balenger*, Ian Boerkircher*, Riley Moses*, Garrett Nuss , Noah Stafursky*]


Kicking 2018 GRADUATED: JORDAN OBER; LEFT TEAM: CALEB LIGHTBOURN, Cole Frahm*, Alec Cromer*

RECRUITS- Grant Deflefson*-P(Walk-on), Gabe Heins*-PK(Walk-on), Dylan Jorgensen*-PK(Walk-on); TRANSFER-William Przystup(P)*(Walk-on)

2019 PK-BARRET PICKERING(PK)-SO; P-ISAAC ARMSTRONG(P)-RSR; LS-CHASE URBACH*-RSR

[William Przystup*(P)-RFr, Jackson Walker*(P)-RSr, Cameron Pieper(LS)-RFr, Cade Mueller*(LS)-RFr, Grant Deflefson*(P)-Fr, Gabe Heins*(PK)-Fr, Dylan Jorgensen*(PK)-Fr]

RECRUITS-

2020 PK-BARRET PICKERING(PK); P-WILLIAM PRZSTUP*(P); LS-CADE MUELLER*

[Cameron Pieper(LS), Grant Deflefson*(P), Gabe Heins*(PK), Dylan Jorgensen*(PK)]

2021 PK-BARRET PICKERING(PK); P-WILLIAM PRZSTUP*(P); LS-CADE MUELLER*

[Cameron Pieper(LS), Grant Deflefson*(P), Gabe Heins*(PK), Dylan Jorgensen*(PK)]
 
Last edited:

HuskerInOkieland

All American
10 Year Member
DEFENSIVE BACKFIELD


Going into the 2018 season, the defensive backfield was loaded with questions. Fast forward a year, and things have a much different feel. The CB position has two returning starters who had arguably very solid seasons particularly in the second half of last year and two promising young players coming off their freshmen season. While the safety position has a couple of talented junior players poised to take over the starting duties there.

Let’s take a closer look at the players.


SAFETY

There is an old joke in sports that goes something like this:

“There’s good news and bad news. The good news is everyone is back. The bad news is everyone is back.”

The safety position sets up to be the opposite of that joke this year. The bad news is that the top three safeties from last year are gone. For many fans, that’s also the good news.

Let’s look at the bad news first—then move to the good news.

Many analysts when trying to predict a team’s success would tell you that losing safeties on the back end of the defense is not a good sign of things to come. Losing one or two experienced safeties can be hard on a defense. Losing three is another story. It isn’t easy for a young player to take control of a defense on the back end. Safeties are said to be the “lid” covering the defense. Whereas fans are enamored with athletic speedy hard hitting safeties, lack of experience at safety can lead to disaster regardless of athletic ability.

Losing Aaron Williams lowers the teams football I.Q. as he was an extremely smart player unfortunately having to deal with injuries most of the second half of his career. Meanwhile, Antonio Reed was somewhat the opposite of Williams—extremely gifted athletically but . . . there was never a shortage of tree stumps that could easily outsmart him. He struggled with injuries throughout his career as well.

Another factor to be considered in losing all three players is the hit on depth. Losing three safeties, having both of last year’s freshmen safeties leave the program, as well as Jojo Domann’s move to linebacker has left the program somewhat shallow on the safety end of the pool. This will need to be addressed in upcoming recruiting classes—although last year’s stellar class is a great start.

Enough with the bad news, onto the good news.

The good news is that even though the top three safeties (in terms of playing time) are gone, there is still considerable experience returning in the two projected starters.

First up is junior Deontai Williams. In over 240 snaps last year, Williams not only was the highest graded Cornhusker, he was one of the highest graded players in the entire country. In fact, one publication listed him as a reserve All American (somewhat stretching the concept of “All American”). There is no doubt that Williams is ready for prime time in his second season since transferring to NU as a JUCO. One of the most popular players on message boards, many fans already have him pegged as a shoe-in All American.

Williams just has a way of making plays--fumbles, interceptions, big hits. On a couple of occasions early last year, opposing ball players were seen dancing along the sidelines while NU defenders tip-toed over themselves trying to coral the illusive ball carrier—only to have Williams streak in like a missile and de-cleat the guy into the sideline. Then he just turned around and walked back to the huddle like nothing had happened.

It’s those kinds of plays that endear Williams to the fans. Williams has all the tools to be great—speed, size, playmaking ability, and he is a ferocious hitter. It is important though to remember that the coaches were careful to place Williams in situations where he could succeed last year. This year, he will be an every down player—game in, game out. He’ll need some time to grow into that role.

Next up is redshirt junior Marquel Dismuke. After seeing extensive playing time in 2017, Dismuke saw sporadic playing time early last season. Things just never seemed to go well for Dismuke. Dismuke had a key interception negated by penalty at one point. Then was flagged for a late hit on the sideline at a later point. Even though such plays were somewhat commonplace early last season, Coach Frost seemed to take a real dislike to this particular penalty. Dismuke never played another defensive snap from that point on. He did however, block a punt late in the year which resulted in a safety against Illinois.

The truth was that Dismuke didn’t have his act together on or off the field. In spite of having all the tools for success and being noted by teammates as a ferocious hitter, Dismuke was seen as being extremely soft in the weight room. But perhaps no one had a better off season and Dismuke has reportedly turned everything around. Now, reports are that he is dedicated himself to the strength and conditioning program and is poised to have a great season. Like Williams, fans need to remember that it takes time to grow into the starter role at safety. However, it looks like Dismuke has a chance to be the one Calibraska player who might actually pan out for Big Red.

Hopefully the two juniors live up to expectations, because after them the waters get a little murky. Going into the fall, if an injury were to occur to one of the two projected starters, the next up would likely be sophomore Cam Taylor. The problem with that is the fact that Cam Taylor is likely the next man up at CB as well (also competing for the nickel job). There is a chance that Taylor may end up the top reserve at all three positions—making him a very valuable guy. Ultra-smooth, the former HS QB knows no fear and should see the field often in whatever role suits the needs of the team at the time.

To help bring a bit more experience to the group, the coaches moved fifth year senior Eric Lee, Jr. to safety. This seems like a good move because Lee just hasn’t panned out as a CB. Once a prized recruit, Lee has had a couple of opportunities to establish himself but has struggled. But Lee is a hard worker, has some experience in big games, and has played some safety before. Don’t look for miracles here, Lee is just trying to help the team anyway he can. He is a player worth cheering for—his touchdown saving tackle against Minnesota was the high point of his career and a rallying point in the locker-room. If he has any moment like that in 2019, enjoy it for what it is worth. Anything more is a bonus.

The only other scholarship player returning from last season is redshirt senior Avery Anderson. Anderson and Lee were considered two of the gems of their recruiting class a while ago. But whereas Lee has been a disappointment, Anderson makes Lee look like an over-achiever. Anderson has moved back and forth from CB to safety so many times, fans have lost count. He has struggled mightily at both. He saw limited action a few years ago but did not play on defense last year. Expect nothing here.

The depth in the DB positions was helped mightily by the arrival of 4 freshmen in the fall. Luckily, it looks like the Huskers hit the jackpot with this incoming group. It is unclear which positions many of the freshmen players will end up playing—CB or safety. This is a very versatile group—in fact, a couple of freshmen have been mentioned as future OLB’s. But for the purpose of simplicity, we will consider Noa Pola-Gates and Myles Farmer as safeties and Quinton Newsome and Javin Wright as CB’s—for now.

Noa Pola-Gates was one of the top recruits in last year’s class. Although he is playing some CB in fall camp, he is everything you would want as a big time safety recruit. He has good size, speed, and his hard hit of fellow incoming Husker Wan’Dale Robinson in a High School ASG nearly stopped many Husker hearts. Gates could use a year to bulk up some, but look for him as a candidate for early playing time if not in the secondary then certainly special teams.

The staff absolutely love Myles Farmer and believe they got an absolute under-rated steal out of the state of Georgia. He has been everything they hoped in fall camp so far. He too could carve an early role for himself. Don’t be surprised if he ends up being a big time OLB eventually.

As for walk-ons, there are a few to consider. First of all, redshirt senior Reid Karel has been mentioned as being one of the vocal leaders in the DB room in practices and preparation. He played a handful of snaps in mop up duty last year as well as well as being a steady contributor on special teams. Husker fans should appreciate his contributions.

Redshirt junior Eli Sullivan also played a handful of mop up duty snaps splitting between CB and safety last year. He also is should see some special teams duty.

Redshirt freshman Isaiah Stalbird made the 110 man roster and is one to watch. But incoming freshman Tyson Guzman has surprised the staff with his impressive arsenal of tools. Keep an eye on him.

Looking ahead, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that everyone is back for 2020 (sans Karel). The safety position could be pretty salty at this point. The bad news is that Williams and Dismuke leave in 2021 and the depth chart looks rather barren at that point. Hopefully Gates and Farmer are the real deal. The staff needs to build some depth into this position. Look for a couple of safeties in both 2020 and 2021. A JUCO in the 2021 class is not out of the question.


CORNERBACK

The wild and wacky career of senior Lamar Jackson likely comes to close in 2019. One of the absolute prized recruits of his class, Jackson has been given every chance to become an impact player at Nebraska from the very moment he set foot on campus.

And the results have been rather . . . (un)impactful.

First of all, Jackson’s prediction of going pro after his junior year is now officially off the table. Last year, it looked like he might not make it to the end of his junior year. Pulled during the Wisconsin game for multiple reasons, speculation that Jackson would transfer out was running rampant. It was his fourth game and he could have taken a redshirt and left the program. His career had seemingly hit rock bottom and fans and reporters alike openly dismissed him as another flop in a long string of flops.

At that point, very few people gave him much of a chance. People began referring to him in the past tense.

But a funny thing happened—the light switch finally came on. He was reinserted into the lineup (thus eliminating the four game redshirt rule) and slowly but surely, fans began to notice a difference in his play. As teams tested him downfield, he answered the challenge again and again by running stride for stride with the receiver leaving no room for the QB to fit the pass into a window. He would finish the year with 2 INTs, 7 BrUps, and a forced fumble. Furthermore, he is now the poster child for Coach Frost as a player who stopped playing for himself, and started doing things the “right way.”

Now Jackson is back and appears to be one of the leaders of the secondary. What is Jackson capable of over a full season with a new improved attitude? Fans can dream. Of course, he still needs to improve his tackling. Word is that he worked hard in the offseason to improve his physicality.

While Jackson struggled, now redshirt junior DiCaprio Bootle thrived. Bootle is somewhat the opposite of Jackson. Discovered in a satellite camp, Bootle arrived in Lincoln with little fanfare. Blessed with great speed, Bootle jumped out to an astounding 15 BrUps early last year. Unfortunately, none of those break ups led to an interceptions. Bootle needs to improve his ball skills as he has tendency to lose his balance when he turns around to find the football in the air. This leads to his getting his hands on the ball but not being able to haul in the interception. In addition, it does leave him vulnerable to the occasion PI. All of Bootle’s breakups occurred early in the year, last year. QB’s began throwing away from Bootle a bit as the season wore on. Bootle also struggled with some injuries that hampered him in the second half. He will need more bulk to get through the season stronger. This could also help him with another issue—Bootle is not particularly strong coming up in run support—an issue shared with Jackson. Whereas Jackson appears to have the size necessary, at times Bootle just flat out gets “trucked” in run support. He is said to have had a strong offseason in the weight room. If he can improve even a little bit in that regard, the Huskers should be in good shape.

After the two returning starters, the two incoming freshmen from 2018 likely take their place on the depth chart. Sophomore Cam Taylor has already been discussed in the safety analysis. Taylor is said to be the smoothest DB in the group. He played 78 snaps last year and is only beginning to scratch the surface of his potential.

Redshirt freshman Braxton Clark rounds out the two-deep. Clark played just short of 20 snaps last year and is having a great camp so far. The staff is excited about his future. Keep in mind, Taylor may be needed to help out at safety. If so, Clark could find himself playing a huge role in 2019.

Redshirt junior Tony Butler played a handful of mop up snaps last year and doesn’t appear to hold a strong spot on the depth chart. Younger players should be passing him up soon. Eric Lee is another possibility to move back from safety if injuries create the need.

Two talented incoming freshmen could play a role in 2019. First off, Quinton Newsome has wowed the staff with his coverage skills and if injuries occur, he could be ready sooner than later. Javin Wright is a Husker legacy with a boatload of skills. It is unclear if he will stick at CB or move to safety or OLB at some point. But Wright has the talent to be an impactful player somewhere.

Also, don’t forget Noa Pola-Gates is playing some CB in camp and has looked pretty good doing so.

As for walk ons, redshirt senior Jeremiah Stovall was one of the top special teams’ players last year. Struggling with some injuries, he did not see the field at CB or safety in 2018. Redshirt sophomore Ethan Cox saw some mop up duty on defense as well as special teams work and is noted for his work ethic.

In 2020, Jackson should be gone. This leaves Bootle and either Taylor or Clark as his starting mate. Hopefully Newsome will be ready to challenge for the starting spot by then and Wright is ready to go as well. Butler should still be here but isn’t likely to be in the mix for the top spots.

It appears that depth is fine at that point, as long as some of the versatile players aren’t pulled away to play other positions.

In 2021. Bootle leaves. This leaves Taylor, Clark, Newsome, and Wright. That appears to be marginally sufficient however, the safety numbers may again dictate some shuffling among the versatile players.

Look for NU to take a couple of CB’s apiece in the next few classes. The staff has also been kicking the tires on a lot of JUCO CB’s for next year just in case.


Summary

Versatility is a funny thing. On one hand, it allows you to do more with less. On the other hand, you wonder if you have enough depth stocked at each position.

Versatility allows you to cover most of your bases going forward. But it cannot mask the numbers. The numbers at DB are lean. Perhaps no other position group has a smaller margin for error over the next few seasons. The incoming class of DBs looks great. But if injuries strike or players disappoint, then the plan can quickly unravel. Are there enough true CB’s going forward? Will players be able to play multiple positions once they begin to fill out and add weight-or will they eventually have to settle on one position? This is the way Coach Fisher likes to recruit and his track record seems solid. Also, many DB’s progressed nicely last year, another very good sign.

But what if Coach Fisher takes another job—as some fans suspect might happen? Would a new coach be able to work with the type of talent and numbers inherited from Coach Fisher.

These are the questions going forward. In my opinion, true CB’s are a need in this year’s class. Also, look for NU to possibly take eight recruits over the next two recruiting classes to beef up the numbers as well as a potential JUCO or two depending on how things go.

The quality is there. The quantity needs to follow.


Next up . . . linebackers.
 
Last edited:

HuskerInOkieland

All American
10 Year Member
LINEBACKER

For years, Nebraska fans dreamed of switching to the 3-4 defense. DLinemen are hard to find especially in the heartland they reasoned, while the world is chock full of impact linebackers just waiting to join the Huskers and lead them back to glory.

Recruiting and development of players was going to be so, so easy.

The switch finally happened. And two 4-8 seasons followed. Guess it wasn’t so easy after all. Granted, other factors contributed mightily to the downfall, but one can’t deny the switch to the 3-4 has been a brutal transition. We have watched as the 500 mile radius has produced a number of linemen who were better fits for the 4-3 than the 3-4. Meanwhile, linebacker recruiting has been . . . insert Husker expletive here.

Let’s take a closer look starting with Inside Linebacker.


INSIDE LINEBACKER

Mohammed Barry.

Well, that was easy. If only the rest of the linebacker picture was so clear and easy to articulate.

The now redshirt senior led the team with 112 tackles last year as he played a whopping 783 snaps—this after being ejected from the second game after only 13 snaps.

Barry is one of the unquestioned leaders of this football team. He has as much heart and energy as anyone on the team. He has a nose for making plays and is usually in the middle of the action. He is articulate and speaks well to the media. He doesn’t hide after a bad performance and gives thoughtful answers to hard questions.

As much as Barry is loved by Husker fans, he does have his critics. They would point out he also led the team in missed tackles last year—in fact he led the Big 10 Conference. Of course, being involved in so many plays increases the likelihood of some missed tackles, but the numbers don’t lie. Barry sometimes gets caught trying to anticipate and getting caught out of position—a flaw most fans are more willing to accept then shying away from plays entirely. His critics also point out that although he makes a lot of plays, they would like to see more “impact” plays. But Barry was second on the team in TFL’s and he did lead the team in STOP tackles—a statistic measuring if the tackle “won the down”.

All that being said, no one doubts Barry’s importance to this year’s team. Like so many other Huskers, Barry needed to bulk up to be able to be more consistently physical and to withstand the grind of a long Big Ten season. Barry worked hard to do so in the offseason. If the Huskers can find a way to limit his snaps in 2019, a great season could be in the cards.

But limiting Barry’s snap count won’t be easy. Gone from 2018 is the absolute favorite whipping boy of the Message Board sadists—Dedrick Young, he of the 826 snaps last year. Who will replace those 826 snaps as well as helping to lighten Barry’s load?

There are two players vying for that opportunity. Husker fans need both of these players to perform as the number 2 and 3 ILB’s because there really is no number 4.

First up would be redshirt junior Collin Miller. Miller played 64 snaps last year and registered 17 tackles. At times he flashed last year, at times he struggled. A converted DE, Miller bounced back and forth between ILB and OLB until finally settling at ILB. The hope is that being established at one position will allow him to mature into a more significant role. Miller has been quoted as saying that he didn’t believe he was playing at the right weight last year. He is now reportedly stronger and more explosive than at any point last year. He had a great spring and is having a great fall camp. The staff believes he can provide some pass rush from the ILB position. Meanwhile, Miller has worked hard to improve his coverage skills—a definite weak point in the past. The main question left for Miller though, is he ready to handle the increased workload.

The other candidate for the starting spot is redshirt junior and former JUCO Will Honas. Honas was one of the top coveted JUCO players in the country coming into 2018, but last year he just didn’t look right from the very beginning. He seemed confused and quite frankly didn’t look big enough to be an impact guy. He got caught badly out of position a few plays early on but started to flash as he settled in. But then he suffered a season ending injury that many people believe will turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Honas played in four games and recording 15 tackles in 111 snaps. The new 4 game redshirt rule now allows Honas to take a mulligan on the 2018 season and also allows him to be available in 2020—a potentially wonderful development for helping the depth issues that was projected for that season.

Honas was severely limited in spring ball but is back now and is said to be having a great fall camp. He has bulked up and looks ready for a big season.

All three players should play a TON of snaps in 2019. If you ask most fans who the #4 ILB is at this point, you might hear crickets chirping before you receive an answer.

The staff believes they landed a pair of great ILB’s in the last class. The hope was that one of these freshmen would be ready to be the #4 guy this year. In particular, Nick Henrich was a top 150 recruit and the special bonus of his signing was that he was a spring enrollee. He showed up looking ready to go but unfortunately, an injury put a cloud on his 2019 season. It looks now like he will be back at some point toward the end of the season. The hope is that he can play perhaps 4 games (preserving his redshirt) and help out the team a bit and be ready for a big 2020 season. But no one really knows how much rust he will have to shake off and what kind of impact he can make at that point. It might be 2020 before he really is ready to shine.

The other freshman is Jackson Hannah. If Hannah had been here in the spring, he might very well have had a leg up on the #4 spot. As it is, he is said to be impressing in fall camp and might be an option—if not at ILB then certainly playing special teams. Some folks really like Hannah as an OLB. Either way, Hannah is loaded with potential.

There is another incoming freshman—Garret Snodgrass. Snodgrass will start out at ILB however, his ultimate position is still undetermined. Snodgrass is definitely a developmental guy that needs some time. He may however, be a good special teams guy sooner rather than later.

The likely #4 guy could very well be a walk-on. Redshirt freshman Joseph Johnson was thought to be a solid candidate as the staff has been very high on him. Unfortunately, Johnson picked a poor time for injury as he has had to miss a lot of valuable reps this fall.

One man’s pain can be another man’s gain. The injury to Johnson has opened the door for incoming freshman walk on Luke Reimer who has been a revelation to Husker fans this fall. Reimer has received a lot of press for his play in camp and may be carving out some playing time for himself. He may also see some action on special teams. It is unclear how much playing time he will receive in 2019 but he has positioned himself nicely to be in the picture going forward.

Redshirt freshman Chris Cassidy made the 110 man roster as did incoming freshman Caden McCormack—whom the staff really are high on.

In 2020, Barry is gone. Hopefully, Miller and Honas are established by then and Henrich and Hannah are ready for prime time. With Johnson and Reimer in the mix, that leaves six potential bodies with Snodgrass possibly working his way into the picture. The injury to Honas and extra season really helps maintain solid depth here.

In 2021, things are starting to shallow up a bit. Miller and Honas are gone. Henrich and Hannah should be center stage by now with Johnson, Reimer, and Snodgrass providing depth.

Look for NU to take a couple of ILB’s in both 2020 and 2021. A JUCO doesn’t appear to be needed for 2020 if all goes to plan. Time will tell regarding a JUCO in the 2021 class.

Like so many positions, the quality appears to be there, the depth needs to be improved.


OUTSIDE LINEBACKER

The dog and the cat.

That terminology was introduced to Husker fans two seasons ago, but it has been the cat position that has turned out to be a total dog.

Granted, Coach Chinander does not use that terminology, but make no mistake—no position has stunk more than the position formerly known as cat. The only time we have had any productivity at all with the cat position is when we have played with two dogs on the field.

The dog was the strong side OLB whereas the cat position was supposed to be the pass rusher.

This year, redshirt senior Tyrin Ferguson hopes to be able to stay healthy. If so, he has shown that he can be a terrific player and man one of the two OLB positions. But injuries limited him to 290 plays last year and the Huskers struggled to replace him. Now the Huskers lose underrated Luke Gifford to graduation and need Ferguson to carry the load. Ferguson is simply one of the best players on the team when healthy. He was built to be a great linebacker. Early in his career, Ferguson didn’t dedicate himself enough to strength and conditioning, but that has long since changed. A strong Captain candidate, Ferguson’s health could go a long ways toward determining the fate of the 2019 team.

Who will play opposite Ferguson? For Husker fans it comes down to the “Great Hope” and the “Great Nope.”

The Great Hope is of course, often injured redshirt junior Jojo Doman. Domann is a fan favorite, a future NFL first ballet Hall of Famer that barely needs to toss his strap onto the field to lead the Huskers to the promise land—if only he could find a way to stay on the field long enough to throw his strap. Domann’s injury history is well documented. So of course, it stands to reason that he would begin the 2019 season with . . . you guessed it . . . an injury. To make matters worse, a mysterious injury and absence from the beginning of fall camp started rumors of another career-ending injury and of course, rumors that he was transferring. Those rumors have once again turned out to be troll driven hysteria and Domann is now in fall camp competing for a starting job.

Domann moved to OLB from safety last year and immediately made an impact when he debuted during the middle of the season. Domann is simply a player. He has an instinct for making plays that cannot be taught. Unfortunately, Domann was probably playing a little light for the OLB position last year, a fact that has been remedied with an offseason of bulking up. Now Domann LOOKS like a linebacker and Husker fans hope will be the dominant pass rushing threat we have sorely lacked at that position.

His competition for the starting job is . . . gulp hard Husker fans . . . redshirt senior Alex Davis—he of the five tackles in 250 snaps last year. Whereas Domann can never stay healthy, Alex Davis can’t get injured enough to suit most Husker fans.

Okay, enough bashing. Davis was dreadful last year (and the year before). But the young man was new to football when he was recruited, and has had to change positions (former DE) and schemes multiple times throughout his career. Coaches have raved about his off season work and the improvement he has shown in camp. Physical tools have never been his issue, confidence and experience have always been the issues. In addition, although he flashes good moves in getting after the QB in practice, Davis has never quite mastered the physicality aspects of football. A good season of adding some needed bulk have reportedly allowed Davis to play with a confidence he has never had before.

I know, Husker fans are saying ‘I’ll believe it when I see it.’ But wouldn’t it make a great story if he managed to have a good season?

Backing up Ferguson, the likely candidate to fill out the #2 unit is sophomore Caleb Tannor. One of the jewels of the 2018 recruiting class, Tannor impressed coaches upon arrival last year. Tannor recorded 10 tackles and one sack in 129 snaps during the season. But Tannor never looked comfortable and appeared to need some bulk to his frame. To make matters worse, Tannor struggled with injuries in spring camp which also set him back. But Tannor is said to be having a solid fall camp. His weight is still not where Husker fans would like to see it, but Tannor says that his weight is solid now. He added mass over all, but he had to subtract some bad weight first. Tannor has admitted he was lost last year but says he feels much more comfortable now. He doesn’t have to reach his potential this year as he may still be a year away, but it would be nice if he was ready to be a solid backup. His long term potential is as high as just about anyone on the team.

The top 4 will likely all see plenty of action, injuries permitting. After that, it is a bit unclear. It is hard to find out much about redshirt freshman David Alston. Not much has been said regarding the talented linebacker. But what is said is generally pretty positive. Alston was seen as a bit of a project when he was recruited, so he may still be a season away.

The real wildcard at OLB is incoming freshman Garrett Nelson. Nelson is another of a long line of 3* Nebraska kids that seem to fly under the radar—think Luke Gifford, Jared Crick, etc. Whereas Nelson wasn’t the most highly rated recruit, what’s not to like? He has a great frame, he’s already well developed with plenty of room to grow, and is smart, hard working, and loves the Huskers. Sometimes we can overthink these things. Nelson showed up in camp ready to compete. There are those that think he could be one of the stars of this class. Nelson looks ready to play right now. Look for him to be a special teams player with a chance to crack the rotation at OLB. One would think it would make sense to play Nelson four games and preserve a redshirt. We shall see.

The other incoming freshman is more or a project. Jamin Graham is an intriguing Alabama HS prospect that may need time to develop. He is a bit of a high risk, high reward type of player. If he develops, he looks to be a solid pass rushing threat.

By the way, redshirt junior Pernell Jefferson did not make the 110 man roster. ‘Nuff said.

Redshirt sophomore Jordan Paup is an intriguing prospect for a walk-on. There are those that think he could be a scholarship player someday. There are those who think he will make a solid special teams player but don’t see anything more. Paup played a few snaps in a blowout last year.

Redshirt freshmen Simon Otre also saw the field for ten plays and even recorded a tackle. He has some potential as does redshirt freshman Ryan Schommer whom the coaches like quite a bit. Incoming freshman John Bullock is another player that intrigues the coaches.

In 2020, Ferguson and Alex Davis are gone. Hopefully Domann is firmly established by then and Tannor is either established or ready to take the next step at this point. This would leave Nelson, Alston, and maybe Graham vying for backup duties. Not great depth, but with luck not terrible either.

In 2021, Domann leaves. My best guess would be Tannor and Nelson as starters with Alston and Graham backing up. Also remember that one or more of the DB’s (Farmer for example) may be options at OLB at some point. The depth is starting to get a bit uncomfortably shallow at this point.

OLB is in the minds of the fans, one of the big recruiting needs of this class and it is hard to argue. What fans really want is a bigtime pass rushing specialist. Be that as it may, more recruiting is needed. Look for two in 2020 followed by another pair in 2021. A JUCO is a very real possibility.

And could it be that with the commitment of Blaise Gunnerson, the Huskers have found their pass rushing OLB? Or is he slated to play DE? Stay tuned.


Summary

When Mike Riley arrived in Lincoln, he was shocked at the linebacker depth Pelini left behind. He took multiple LB’s in his first classes in the hopes of shoring up the lack of depth. Unfortunately, a variety of factors made that recruiting strategy ineffective. Switching to the 3-4 certainly didn’t help. Neither did getting fired.

The numbers can’t be denied. We have severe depth issues across the board at linebacker. If all of Coach Frost’s moves pan out, then things should hold up okay with a minimum of bumps and bruises. But is “okay” good enough? The bigger problem is, there is so little margin for error. Ferguson must stay healthy. Domann must stay healthy and prosper. Tannor must be the real deal. Honas needs to live up to his hype. And so on and so on.

It will take time to build that depth. The quick fix didn’t work for Riley, and some of Frost’s quick fixes (remember Dixon?) didn’t work either. Now it is time for some good solid recruiting and development.

Things seem to be on the right path now. But time is needed. And as we all know, patience isn’t a strong suit for most Nebraska fans.

Oh and by the way . . . where is that great pass rushing OLB fans are dreaming about?



Next up, the Defensive Line.
 
Last edited:

HuskerInOkieland

All American
10 Year Member
DEFENSIVE LINE


Last year, when Mick Stoltenberg went down to injury, the staff looked around but didn’t see a lot of viable alternatives at the DT position. So Carlos Davis was moved from the DE position and simply did the best he could playing out of position all year. This created issues not only at DT but severely hampered the depth at the DE position as well. As other injuries mounted, by the end of the year the coaches scrambled to find healthy bodies to put on the field.

Fast forward a year, and the outlook looks much brighter for the defensive line both in terms of starters and over all depth.

Let’s take a look.


INTERIOR LINEMEN

For the most part, when looking at the interior of the defensive line, we are talking about the Nose Tackle position. Keep in mind, NU may elect to use 4-3 sets which would necessitate having two interior lineman. But for the purpose of this analysis, we will mostly focus on having just one interior lineman.

What a difference a year makes. In spite of losing their starter from last year to graduation and moving his replacement back to DE, the Huskers find themselves with several attractive options on the interior.

Redshirt senior transfer Darrion Daniels is certainly a name must Husker fans find familiar. That’s because he is the older brother of current Husker Damion Daniels. The elder Daniels transferred in from Oklahoma State where his senior year was ruined by injury. Okie State was disappointed he chose not to return for his extra season, but NU was delighted to land him.

The original thought was adding another talented player for the interior, plus the benefit of his relationship to his brother, plus the leadership intangibles he was credited with having.

But Daniels has blown the coaches away with what he has brought to the table. He is now one of the unquestioned leaders on this team—respected by coaches and players alike. He is also in great shape and ready to have the season of his life. If he can stay healthy, he could be one of the great stories of 2019.

Speaking of his brother, redshirt sophomore Damion Daniels should benefit from having his older brother on the team to help guide and mentor him into the player Husker fans hope he can be. Talent is not the issue for Damion—he is loaded with it. Staying in shape is the issue. It was stated in an article in the spring that coaches worry about having Damion on the field for more than three plays. After the third play, Damion hits a wall that opponents would have very little hesitation to exploit. A by-product of weight issues is usually health issues. Damion has been healthy, but it is worrisome what would happen if he had to play more snaps than the 173 he played last year. Damion has been working on his conditioning. There appears to be enough depth to keep him fresh for solid duty in 2019.

The Huskers knew they needed someone ready to play immediately in 2020. So they looked around and happened to find an unsigned JUCO player who is actually a late part of their 2019 class. Redshirt Junior Jahkeem Green arrived very late in fall camp but looks like an absolute steal. The dream is for him to redshirt in 2019 (playing four games) and then be available for 2020 and 2021. However, Green has NFL aspirations and it seems doubtful he would want to stick around that long anyway. Given his obvious talent, Green is looking for immediate playing time in 2019 and may simply be too good to keep off the field. The question has been, how good of shape would he be when he reported to camp? The early signs are that he is ready to play. He gives the Huskers three very solid options for the upcoming season.

Redshirt senior Vaha Vainuku is back after playing 5 snaps in his return to football in 2018. Don’t expect much help there unless injuries really force the issue.

The Davis twins—Carlos and Khalil—are both capable of playing inside as Carlos did most of 2018. Hopefully, they can stay at DE. But don’t be surprised if they move inside on obvious passing downs to create a bigger pass rush. The same could be said of DE Deontre Thomas who played DT his freshman year.

In 2020, the depth drops off the table. Darrion is gone. Vainuku is gone. Even the Davis twins are gone. That leaves Damion Daniels and Jahkeem Green. And I am still not convinced that Green won’t be a one and done player for 2019. If Green leaves after 2019, then what? If he stays, then fans will appreciate what a great catch he was. His value is for 2020 more than 2019. He would likely be the starter and Daniels a great backup. Deontre Thomas may be called upon to be a third guy if needed.

In 2021, technically no one leaves. I’d be stunned if Green were still here. Daniels would be the man as it stands now and Deontre Thomas would most likely have to play at least some DT.

Keep in mind, that the staff used 4 players at DT last year usually rotating three per game. The third DT generally played around 10 snaps. This is important to remember when you think about what kind of depth is needed.

Also, DT is a tough position for freshmen to come in and play right away. This position is going to be a tricky one recruiting-wise. There was a thought that Ethan Piper might be a guy to move inside. That could still happen, but he looks slated to play on the OL. Perhaps moving a guy like Ty Robinson inside for 10 snaps or so a game could help with depth.

In any case, the Huskers struck gold when they secured the commitment of Nash Hutmacher for the 2020 class. His commitment should go a long ways toward filling the void on the roster. Will he be ready to play right away? Look for the Huskers to try to add another NT in the 2020 class—possibly two. A JUCO is a very definite possibility. Another JUCO (or graduate transfer) in 2021 is also a possibility if things don’t go according to plan.


DEFENSIVE END

Three years into the 3-4 and fans still don’t understand that DE’s in the 3-4 are not necessarily the players you look for to create a pass rush. That pass rush should come from the LB’s—which of course is depressing given the lack of pass rushing LB’s currently on the roster. Be that as it may . . .

No one has sacked the QB more than redshirt sophomore Ben Stille the last two years. His five sacks last year gave him 8.5 sacks on his career. That puts him at the very head of the class in that category. With Gifford gone, no one else is even close—talk about depressing. Unfortunately, Stille hasn’t exactly been the most proficient DE. A former OLB, Stille has taken some time to adjust to the duties of a DE and has struggled particularly against the run in his early career. The problem has been that Stille hasn’t had the mass to stand up against the run particularly against power downhill running teams. This is something Stille worked diligently to improve in the offseason. It sounds like a broken record, but Stille is yet another player that has added some nice weight and looks to be much more battle ready for 2019.

Stille will likely start at one DE position and one of the redshirt senior Davis twins will start at the other. But which one?

Not that it matters because both will play—and play a lot. At present, Khalil Davis looks to have the early edge. Davis had a solid 2018 season with 41 tackles and 3 sacks. At times, he looked like one of our best players. Other times, he seemed to disappear. Always freakishly strong, Davis is reportedly lifting at an all-time high level. It is frightening to think how strong he could be now. It also gives Husker fans hope that a great season could be in the cards for Khalil. He has said that he is in the best shape of his career and is ready to roll.

Meanwhile, twin brother Carlos is back from his duty as the emergency DT last year. His reward? He has no starting job this year. Thank you very much. But Carlos is very much like his brother—freakishly strong, lifting at an all time high level, and incredibly agile for such a big man.

The Davis twins have been fan favorites from the very beginning. Nothing would thrill fans more than to see both go out with a big season.

The top three players should all play plenty of snaps and will likely rotate as though they are all starters. But the cupboard isn’t bare at that point. Redshirt sophomore Deontre Thomas is healthy again after getting hurt in his fourth game last year (thus the redshirt). Having played as an undersized DT his freshman year, Thomas was quiet most of last year but was starting to make some noise when his injury happened. This may be another case of an injury being a blessing in disguise. Thomas could have come back later in the year, but wanted to preserve the redshirt and continue to work to get stronger and bigger. Now he is ready to go and has been mentioned as a guy that should see plenty of action. Hopefully, our DT recruiting will be enough to keep him from having to move inside again. Thomas has great agility and with the added bulk he has acquired could be a nice player going forward.

Fans keep asking what has happened to redshirt senior DaiShon Neal. The answer? He keeps getting hurt. Last year, he had a solid spring and fall camp and was starting to see some time in the rotation. But after 64 snaps, the mounting injuries finally forced him out of action. Physical tools aren’t the issue—he looks like a great player getting off the bus. It is unclear if he will have a role in 2019. Silence isn’t necessarily a good thing here.

Fans were excited to welcome two young players to the defensive line last year, but both players suffered season ending injuries. Now both redshirt freshmen Tate Wildeman and Casey Rogers are working their way back into form. Wilderman was considered as a candidate to potentially move fast before his injury and Rogers was projected as a bit more of a project. Both have talent and are said to be doing well. You shouldn’t expect much for 2019 though.

Redshirt sophomore Chris Walker is a workout warrior with a heart as big as anyone on the team. Unfortunately, his feet have a hard time moving his impressive frame. There are those that think he should return to OT—but slow feet aren’t exactly a recipe for success there as well. Walker still has a few believers out there—but he has his doubters too. He played 11 snaps last year.

Incoming freshman Ty Robinson was one of the top prospects from last year’s class. It won’t take long for him to force his way into the lineup. Given the depth at the position, he may have to wait a year—but if there are injuries, don’t be surprised if the coaches turn to him.

Freshman Mosai Newsome is on the other extreme than Robinson. Newsome is seen as a project. Don’t expect much from him for a couple of seasons.

Keep in mind that both Jahkeem Green and Darrion Daniels are versatile enough to take some snaps at DE.

Former Navy Seal and redshirt sophomore Damian Jackson is almost a legend for his toughness and leadership skills. Last year he saw the field for a few plays. Fans would love nothing more than for him to carve an on-field role for himself. Not sure if that can or cannot happen. But in any case, his value in the locker room cannot be stated enough.

Redshirt senior walk on Fyn Anderson played 11 snaps last year.

In 2020, the Davis twins are gone as is DaiShon Neal. That leaves Stille and Thomas as the holdovers with Ty Robinson perhaps ready for prime time. If Chris Walker has it in him to make a more, now would be the time. It will also be interesting to see if Wilderman and Rogers are ready to make a move by then as well.

In 2021, Stille is gone. So the Huskers would have Thomas, Robinson, Walker, Wilderman, and Rogers to work with.

The DE position has been a bit of a slow process but the Huskers have been doing it right. They have brought in a couple of DE’s each year and should continue to do so in 2020 and 2021. A JUCO doesn’t seem too likely—especially for 2020. Blaise Gunnerson has verballed to NU for 2020—but his position might be at OLB.


Summary

It will be interesting to see how some of the young DE’s develop over time as well as seeing what kind of recruits NU continues to bring in. The Huskers seem to like versatility and length. To create the necessary depth at DT, it may be necessary to recruit a number of players who can play both inside and outside. DE/OLB hybrid recruits may be part of the plan as well going forward.

Another interesting development to watch is the hiring of the new DL coach Tony Tuioti. What kinds of players will he bring in? Can he develop the players inherited from Coach Dawson and the previous regime? Can he develop a “Poly Pipeline?”

Nose tackle recruiting is a huge need in the next recruiting classes. Meanwhile, the Huskers need to harvest the crop from their recent recruiting classes at DE while continuing to bring more talent in to stock the cupboard to build the necessary depth to sustain excellent defensive lines for years to come.


Next up . . . the Offensive Backfield—QB and RB.
 

HuskerInOkieland

All American
10 Year Member
Been away for a little while. Added RB Sevion Morrison as a new recruit. Also added ILB Zach Schlager as a walk on transfer. Removed Anthony Banderas from the roster as well.

I will be adding the final recuiting position analysis posts later this weekend.
 

HuskerInOkieland

All American
10 Year Member
This is crazy, I'm trying to get out the QB/RB position analysis and Marvin Scott III gives his verbal to NU. Now I have to go back and do a quick edit. Oh well, I guess I can live with the inconvenience. :)

Scott is from Florida and is the second RB to commit this week. We are probably done at RB, at least it seems that way.

Nebraska now sits at 10 verbals in the class.
 

HuskerInOkieland

All American
10 Year Member
OFFENSIVE BACKFIELD


Nebraska is coming off consecutive 4-8 seasons. There are two contributing factors to this. First, the switch to the 3-4 defense has not gone well. The second factor is something that really staggers the imagination. Two straight fall camps in a row, Nebraska opened camp without a single QB on their roster who had ever taken a snap at NU. Think about that for a moment. That is hard to do. Circumstances have to be incredible for that happen—two straight seasons. Is it really a surprise we went 4-8 both years?

Now this year, things have changed. We have three QB’s who saw action last year—one of which is on Heisman watch lists—and an incoming freshman who arrived for spring practice and looks ready to play if needed. We even have a great recruit verballed for next year—another spring enrollee. Things look much brighter this year—better than it has looked in a long time.

At RB . . . well . . . things were a little topsy-turvy in the spring but looking up again in the fall.

Let’s take a closer look.


QUARTERBACK

Two words allow Husker fans to sleep peacefully at night in spite of the back to back 4-8 seasons. Those two words are “Adrian” and “Martinez”.

Sophomore Adrian Martinez looks like he could be the poster boy for everything that Scott Frost and Mario Verduzco look for in a QB. What isn’t there to like?

He can run. He just makes play after play with his legs.

He can throw. He completed over 64% of his passes last year.

He has charisma. He has leadership skills. He speaks well. Teammates love him. The media loves him. Fans love him. And he even has the additional feature of already having to overcome some adversity early in his career—injured his senior season in HS and inured in game 1 last year. Clearly, he is no stranger to adversity.

How good can Martinez become?

It’s staggering to look at his statistics from year one and remember that he missed one full game and half of another. He also played in no Bowl Game. He clearly wasn’t 100% a game or two after his injury and his speed may have never been the same due to the leg brace he wore the rest of the year.

Just how good is this guy?

This year, Coach Frost expects Martinez to take on even more leadership responsibilities. Somehow, no one doubts Martinez will be up to the task. The focus isn’t so much on Martinez and his play but how far can Martinez carry this team? Can Martinez overcome some questions on the interior of the line? Can Martinez work with a wide receiver group that lost one of its two major weapons from last year? Can Martinez win games when the defense struggles? Can he win if the running game doesn’t develop as hoped?

If Martinez stays healthy, some Martinez believers think, “Is there anything that can prevent him from leading the Huskers to a successful season?”

If, if, if, if . . . Martinez can stay healthy.

Keeping Martinez vertical will be high on the list of priorities for game planning all year. This naturally draws attention to the questions about the interior of the line—a double whammy given that it is not only difficult for any QB to function behind a leaky line but also the odds of taking multiple hits increases.

If Martinez stays healthy, the sky is the limit. He could be one of the all-time greats at Nebraska. Fans are so confident of this, they are already looking at 2010 as Martinez’s last season figuring he will likely go pro after his junior season. But let’s see how this season turns out first before worrying about that.

Behind Martinez is a group of decent QB’s fighting for the backup position. Keep in mind, we are not necessarily talking about superstars here, just some guys that can possibly get the job done. In other words, whereas Martinez is all about “carrying” the team, the others are more about doing their job. There is a considerable drop off but perhaps not as drastic as in years past. You can’t expect everyone to be another Adrian Martinez, can you?

First up looks to be redshirt sophomore Noah Vedral. Vedral transferred to Nebraska last year, following Coach Frost from UCF. Initially ineligible, Vedral did not receive a positive eligibility ruling until midway during the 2018 season. Therefore, he didn’t get much chance to play.

The coaches love Vedral. He is smart, knows the system, can really run, and this fall it is said he is throwing the ball better than ever before. Vedral looked pretty sharp in the spring game and is the odds on favorite to the #2 QB this year. Fans are split a bit on his long term potential, but again, the coaches love him. After his playing days are over, don’t be surprised if he ends up in the coaching profession. For now, he is a perfect teammate willing to do whatever it takes to help the team—even if he never ascends to the top of the QB chart.

Next up is redshirt junior walk on Andrew Bunch. I think Bunch has been somewhat underappreciated by Husker fans. Last year when Martinez got hurt, Bunch was thrust into the starting lineup and yes, he wasn’t Martinez, but he held his own better than fans give him credit. No one was going to operate against Michigan. The Troy game was just chaotic—but his numbers weren’t bad. And in the Colorado game, if J.D. Spielman doesn’t drop a key third down pass—one of the worst drops all year—Bunch might have ended up the hero in that game. Another factor was that since NU had no third string QB, Bunch didn’t have the luxury of being able to operate the full package of plays available in this offense—a fact confirmed by coaches this offseason.

Bunch is a decent runner and a pretty fair passer. He runs the offense pretty well and is a smart QB. In addition—much like Vedral—he’s a good teammate who is willing to do whatever it takes to help the team even if he isn’t moving up the charts. What more do you want from a walk on? If it wasn’t for Bunch, Nebraska would have had to burn a scholarship to bring in some graduate or JUCO QB who wasn’t ever likely to be more than a mediocre backup player anyway. Fans should always appreciate that for what it is.

The wild card in the group is true freshman Luke McCaffrey. McCaffrey showed up in the spring and immediately began turning heads. Most fans assumed a redshirt year was in the cards. Many fans wondered if he wouldn’t be better suited to move to WR—an annoying buzzing in the ears to the coaches who love McCaffrey as a QB.

If his name sounds familiar it is because two of his brothers have played in the NFL, and another brother is a member of the Michigan football team. In other words, McCaffrey has the gene factor going for him.

McCaffrey is surprisingly fast—in fact, really, really fast. He also has a good arm and has all the intangibles of a great college QB. Some of those intangibles? He scored off the charts in Coach Verduzco’s grueling QB test. He waiting patiently in his HS career before taking over the starting QB job his senior year. He seems absolutely unfazed about the prospect of being behind Martinez for potentially the next three years.

If it wasn’t for the redshirt factor, McCaffrey would absolutely be in the running for the #2 job. But it doesn’t make sense to burn a redshirt to sit behind Martinez. With the four game rule, it will be interesting to see how much McCaffrey plays in blowout games—particularly early in the year. The logical assumption is that if Martinez stays healthy, Vedral will be the likely #2. But if Martinez gets hurt, then all bets are off. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if McCaffrey would leap into the starting job. McCaffrey is having a great fall camp incidentally.

Behind those four sits redshirt freshman walk on Matt Masker. For a young walk on. Masker’s not bad. He’s got some tools to work with and gives the Huskers a little more insurance should injuries begin dwindling the pool of available players.

Walk on freshman Brayden Miller fills out the QB roster once classes begin.

The good news for 2020, everyone is back. By then, McCaffrey will have either used up his redshirt or will have played more than four games in 2019. That means the backup QB job will be wide open with no restraints. It is unclear if Bunch will choose to stay or not, but his leaving would not set off any alarm bells by that point.

In 2021, potentially the entire room is gone except Bunch who would graduate by then. Of course, many fans expect Martinez to leave after 2020. This means that McCaffrey and Vedral would likely be in a battle for the top spot. If Martinez stays, this group is an embarrassment of riches.

To make matters even brighter in 2020 and 2021, the Huskers have already secured the verbal of promising QB prospect Logan Smothers. Smothers looks like another guy who can run and run and run and run and oh by the way, he can pass a little too. There are some fans that think he is heir apparent to Martinez and would be ready to challenge for the top job in 2021—which would be his second year in the program.

The Huskers are already in the hunt for another solid QB to add to their 2021 class. In any case, QB looks to be in good hands for years to come.


RUNNING BACK

Since Scott Frost arrived, the RB room has undergone a major transformation. But nothing has been easy. It wasn’t that there was no talent to work with back then—there were a number of talented RB’s on the roster at that time—it was just that many of the backs were unproven or had some injury questions. Things didn’t start out well when Tre Bryant quit football due to injury—although that wasn’t a complete shock. Then highly touted JUCO Greg Bell inexplicably quit the team after the fourth game in order to sit on his butt the rest of the school year feeling sorry for himself.

But then Devine Ozigbo emerged and had a tremendous senior season featuring 1,000 yards and not one single fumble all year.

But . . . Ozigbo is gone now and fans watched in horror during spring game this year as—due to various circumstances—a group of relatively bland and unexciting RB’s carried the load for both the White and Red squads. Fans exclaimed, “My God, this might be the worst group of RB’s in NU history!”

But that group doesn’t represent what the RB room will look like this season. First of all, sophomore Maurice Washington did not play in the spring game due to his serious legal issues. Fans worried that he would be kicked off the team or at the very least, wouldn’t be in shape once he put the legal issues behind him—IF he were able to do so.

But fast forward to the fall, and while Washington is still operating under a cloud of uncertainty due to those legal issues, the outlook doesn’t seem as bleak as it once did. Furthermore, Washington is said to be having a great fall camp and according to the coaches, is taking care of his business in the right manner in every respect. Hopefully, his legal issues can be resolved quickly and Washington can continue to display his tremendous talents on the football field.

Last year, Washington wasn’t even expected to make it here. In perhaps one of the greatest coups in Nebraska history, the staff shocked the football world by announcing that Washington had overcome the tremendous odds and qualified. Furthermore they announced, he will be here soon.

Washington showed up looking malnourished and woefully underweight. But that didn’t stop him from turning heads immediately in fall camp. He played all season underweight but that didn’t seem to faze him at all. Washington had a tremendous season last year, all things considered. His speed and elusiveness was a perfect complement to the power of Ozigbo, and the two made a great combo. Washington is a tremendous receiver, looking as good as any of the teams’ WR’s in some of his out routes last year. He also looked good returning kickoffs. The sky is the limit for Washington if he can keep his act together.

Washington is a tall thin runner—he sometimes needs to learn to keep his pad level lower to avoid big hits. He did have some issues with some leg injuries late in the year and fumbling was another issue—sometimes due to his refusing to be tackled allowing defenders to take shots at the ball on plays where there were no more yards to be had.

But if Washington can put it all together, he can be one of the all-time greats. Look for him to be a guy who splits out to WR often this year as well.

Sharing the load with Washington is likely to be incoming JUCO and redshirt junior Dedrick Mills. Talk about nothing being easy, for a long stretch of the offseason fans collectively held their breaths to find out if Mills would qualify or not. Mills eventually would qualify, but word is it was a close one. He came closer to not qualifying then most fans will ever want to know.

A former Georgia Tech player who gained 771 yards as a freshman, Mills is critical to the success of this year’s team. Mills basically takes Ozigbo’s place in the running game although the two players are different kinds of runners. Mills is a power downhill runner who always runs with authority and “refuses to be tackled.” His presence allows the coaches to keep Washington fresh—given his relatively frail frame—and protect Martinez with a consistent running game as well as helping a young offensive line develop. Mills is having a great camp and expectations are running high.

After the top 2, things are little unsettled but there are some good options available. Redshirt senior walk on Wyatt Mazour is back and may be able to carve a role for himself. Mazour is a decent runner who can do a little of everything including returning kicks. He probably won’t be the #3 back but you never know. Mazour has been a scholarship recipient in the past and is in line for perhaps getting one this year.

Redshirt sophomore Jaylin Bradley is also back. With so many players missing for spring camp, Bradley had a wonderful opportunity to establish himself. By most accounts, he wasn’t successful in that regard. After playing quite a bit his freshman season, his future continues to be unclear.

One player who did improve his profile in spring camp was redshirt freshman Brody Belt. Belt had a very positive spring and continues to impress this fall.

Meanwhile, redshirt freshman walk on Moses Bryant continues to be a topic of conversation amongst Husker fans, however he doesn’t appear to be in the mix after spending time at CB in 2018.

A couple of incoming freshmen could shake up the RB room. First up is speedy Rahmir Johnson whom many fans predict will be the #3 RB. Did I say “speedy”? Johnson has blazing speed and will very likely see the field as a freshman both in the backfield and on special teams. He could be a great one.

The other incoming freshman is Ronald Thompkins. Thompkins suffered a major injury early last year and the recovery process has been a long hard one. But Thompkins is in camp and performing. Very talented, it seems logical that he take a redshirt year to completely recover from his injury however, no determination has been made in that regard. Keep an eye out for him for 2020 and beyond.

There are a couple of other players who could factor into the RB situation as well. Mega-talented freshman Wan’Dale Robinson and redshirt freshman Miles Jones are both listed as WRs but don’t be surprised if they line up as RBs and receive some carries—particularly Robinson. The Duck-R position allows the Huskers to be very versatile here.

Freshman Zach Weinmaster is an incoming walk on who coaches also like. He was on the 110 man roster.

In 2020, Mazour leaves but the rest of the group returns. With Washington hopefully out of the legal problems and perhaps bulked up a bit and Thompkins hopefully 100%, this could be one heck of a stable of RB’s.

In 2021, Mills will be gone. By then, the group should be well established and have plenty of talent to burn.

Things look even better for 2020 and beyond as the Huskers have landed verbals from two promising RB’s for next year’s class—Sevion Morrison and Marvin Scott III. Recruiting is likely done for 2020 and it will be interesting to see what the recruiting strategy will be for the 2021 class.


Summary

As difficult as the road has been at these two positions, the road ahead looks bright and sunny. The depth charts are bulging with options (although an injury to Martinez would certainly be difficult to overcome) and recruiting appears to be done until the 2021 class. Furthermore, we lose practically nothing next year and depending on Martinez’s NFL decision, have quite a bit returning in 2021.

Now it’s a matter of harvesting the fruit of the solid recruiting at both these positions and developing the talent across the rest of the offense to take advantage of all these explosive athletes.

If only the rest of the position groups laid out this well.


Next up . . . Receivers and Tight Ends.
 
Last edited:

HuskerInOkieland

All American
10 Year Member
RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDS


TE and WR are two position groups that have seen remodeling during the Riley tenure and into the Frost era.

The key to the WR room is for a WR to be in the top 6. The top three are your “starters” but the next three will likely see serious playing time. It never hurts to have a seventh or eighth guy waiting in the wings either.

For years, this rotation was pretty well stocked. However late in the Pelini era and early in the Riley era, a number of factors led to the bulk of the WR room graduating the same year. Things have been out of kilter since then. Riley tried to fix the room by going after some big time recruits only to have some bizarre late decommits and a few busts spoil the plan. Then he was fired and we lost a good looking recruiting class. This has caused Frost to play catch up and he is still trying to fill the void.

At TE, Pelini just plain quit recruiting TE’s whenever he was bored with TE recruiting and unfortunately, Riley wasn’t able to fix that issue before getting the axe. TE play was brutal last year as the TE room was young and mostly inexperienced. This year, things look more promising.

Let’s take a look.


WIDE RECEIVER

All off-season, fans have been wondering . . . “Who will replace Stanley Morgan?” One of the real disappointments last year (besides the 4-8 record) was the lack of development up and down the roster at WR. After Stanley Morgan and J.D. Spielman, no one seemed to step up in spite of a number of players seemingly in position to do so. Finally young Kade Warner emerged as the #3 receiver but that didn’t excite most fans. Now Stanley is gone and fans are nervous.

J.D. Spielman is now a redshirt junior and takes over as the top primary receiver in the rotation. Spielman missed the last two games last year due to injury otherwise he may have joined Morgan as the only 1,000 yard receiver in NU history. As the primary receiver, he may be counted on to eclipse the 1,000 yard barrier this year. Spielman was injured returning a punt—so perhaps relieving him of those duties would go a ways to helping him to stay healthy. But with a punt return touchdown last year and a 99 yard kickoff return TD his freshman year, that may not be so easy to do.

Spielman is explosive and has a knack for getting open and making big plays. Not the biggest guy in the room, he is well put together and his father’s NFL background is apparent in the way Spielman prepares. He is simply one of the best players on the team and one of the keys to a successful 2019 season. Look for Martinez to target him early and often.

Spielman at the top is an easy one. Who fills in behind him is completely in the air. There are a ton of candidates—some new and some from last year.

To beef up the ranks, the staff brought in graduate transfer Kanawai Noa for a year. Noa was a solid receiver for the University of California and earned a reputation for being fearless over the middle. He will be counted on to be a possession receiver who can make tough third down catches to keep drives alive. He has impressed in camp and will likely be one of three starters when Nebraska runs three WR sets. Injured last year, if he can stay healthy this year he could be an absolute steal.

True freshman Wan’dale Robinson is as likely as anyone to be in the top group of receivers. It is hard to remember a true freshman coming into Lincoln with as much hype as Robinson. A spring enrollee, fans heard glowing reports regarding Robinson only to have him skip the spring game to nurse a nagging injury. Now in fall camp, the glowing reports continue and fans continue to salivate. He has worked with the receivers and as a running back where he looks to see some time. He may also be a factor on special teams. Robinson is electric with the ball in his hands. Comparisons to last year’s freshman sensation Rondale Moore from Purdue by analysts all over the country have been abundant. I sometimes think that a freshman De'Mornay Pierson-El might be a better comparison. Think more WR than special teams, but the impact could be similar. In any respect, expect Robinson to have a huge role on this year’s team.

Redshirt sophomore walk on Kade Warner has a hard time getting respect from Husker fans as even though his father is famous QB Kurt Warner, Kade just isn’t a flashy high ceiling guy.

He’s a lunch pail guy that blocks, runs routes, and catches what is thrown to him. It is no coincidence that the offense seemed to click with Warner taking the third WR spot last year in spite of the fact that Warner’s statistics are underwhelming.17 catches for 95 yards reflects the conservative nature of most of his work in the passing game—mostly quick bubble screens where Warner would catch the ball and slug his way downfield. But Warner did haul in an impressive 2 point conversion and he had a great spring. He does all the little things that help the team. However, the injury bug has hit Warner this fall and slowed down his progress. If healthy, look for him to have a solid role.

Redshirt freshman Andre Hunt saw the field last year for 22 snaps but didn’t look ready at all. He is said to be having a great camp and is pushing for time near the top of the rotation. This year, he looks more physically mature and certainly more confident as last year he admitted he was feeling his way. He has good athletic ability but drops have been his problem in the past. Apparently, he has put that problem behind him.

Redshirt senior Mike Williams returns after a mostly unimpressive 2018 season. In 417 snaps last year, he hauled in 12 passes for 122 yards. Blessed with great speed and one of the strongest players on the team pound for pound, the former JUCO struggled with the nuances of playing WR at the power 5 level. His blocking was poor and his confidence seemed to shrink as the frustration mounted. He is said to have worked hard on the “details” of playing WR—certainly he is strong enough to block well and has some tools to work with to improve at the other things. It’s hard to know what to expect from Williams at this point—but at the least he should supply some depth. At the most, he could be another weapon in Frost’s arsenal.

Whereas Williams was a disappointment last year, fellow walk on and now redshirt senior Jaron Woodyard was a virtual disappearing act. Woodyard played 116 snaps and hauled in just one catch for 10 yards. Also blessed with great speed, Woodyard did not have the luxury of appearing in spring ball like Williams did. He never seemed to catch up once he did arrive. Woodyard is said to be more comfortable now and looks to make a positive impact this year.

Fans had just about given up on redshirt sophomore Jaevon McQuitty before word began to filter to the news feeds that McQuitty was having a great fall camp and was pushing for serious playing time. A highly recruited recruit, McQuitty arrived in Lincoln and immediately impressed his freshman year only to have an injury derail his career. He has been largely invisible since then struggling with both injuries and confidence although he did play in 41 snaps last year. In a recent article, McQuitty admitted that he was struggling to keep a positive outlook and wondered if he would ever make it back. Not the fastest guy in the group, McQuitty is more of a physical receiver and needs to rely on his strengths in order to succeed. If McQuitty really can come all the way back, he could be one of the great stories for 2019.

Last but not least among the returnees is redshirt freshman Miles Jones—more of a Duck-R hybrid receiver. One of the jewels of Frost’s initial class, fans waited all season last year for Jones to emerge only to have him appear in only one game with a couple of touches. Jones was hurt most of last year and quite frankly struggled. This fall, he has been healthy and is said to be having a strong camp. He also is working at RB and could see some time there. One of his big issues holding him back may be the fact that Wan’Dale Robinson is ahead of him as the main Duck-R. But regardless, Jones has some great tools and is in the running to be one of the top 6 receivers.

The returning players better step up because three more talented freshmen are trying to shake up the depth chart. Jamie Nance was a spring enrollee with speed to burn and saw quite a bit of action in the spring. Meanwhile, Demariyon Houston also has speed to burn and has been impressive in fall camp. Less is known about Darien Chase but he is a solid looking prospect who also is impressing in camp.

The latest word from fall camp is that the veterans have managed to hold off the incoming freshmen (Robinson excluded) . . . for now.

Among the walk ons, redshirt junior Todd Honas always seems to be somewhere lurking behind the main guys and did see action in a couple of games last year. Redshirt freshmen Bennett Folkers and Wyatt Liewer made the 110 man roster and redshirt sophomore Christian Banker was a late addition.

One other note. Look for sophomore Maurice Washington to be used as a wideout from time to time. Last year, with Spielman out for the Iowa game, Washington was used in that role and had over 100 yards receiving. Quite frankly, if Washington wasn’t so busy being a RB, he could be one of the best WRs on the team (if not the very best).

In 2020, the two JUCO’s—Williams and Woodyard are gone as is Noa. Keep in mind that Spielman may very well have a choice to make this offseason rather he decides to declare early for the draft. But hopefully, things have developed enough that some younger players are established and this group is on its way . . . with talent at the top and depth up and down the group.

In 2021, Spielman is definitely gone as is walk on Honas. Again, if all goes well, this could be a salty group by then.

Look for NU to keep adding numbers. They have already added Zavier Betts and versatile Will Nixon as verbals in this year’s class. They will take at least one more and maybe two. Betts has some serious work to do in the classroom and the coaches are looking for a JUCO player to give them at least one big target type receiver for next year. Recruiting strategy may change depending on if some of the younger players develop as hoped.


TIGHT END

Last year the Huskers used roughly three TE’s most of the year. The good news is that everyone is back. The bad news is that the TE group mostly struggled last year which could be expected given how young and inexperienced the group was—particularly the blocking. Hopefully a year of experience and learning as well as another year of strength and fitness gains will pay dividends. There is some talent here.

Redshirt junior Jack Stoll came into last year as the only TE on the roster with any experience and he held the starting job all year. For the most part, he did a good job. He played 698 snaps and hauled in 21 catches for 245 yards. His blocking also graded out pretty well—not great but certainly better than the rest of the group. More is expected this year. Stoll is said to have had a strong off season in the weight room and is looked at as one of the leaders of the offense. With Morgan gone, look for Martinez to turn more heavily to his TEs. This could mean big numbers for Stoll that could easily make his 2018 numbers look sparse by comparison.

Not only could Jack Stoll benefit from getting more targets from Martinez, but so could the rest of the group. Next up is redshirt sophomore Austin Allen. At 6’8”, Allen is a huge target. As a former basketball player, his height and athletic ability could pose a nightmare match up for opposing defenses. Last year, he caught 2 passes for 54 yards in 201 snaps and is looking to make a much bigger impact in 2019. His problem last year was blocking—he was brutal. Consistently graded as one of the lowest rated blockers on the team, Allen simply most improve to maintain his spot on the depth chart. He has worked hard in the off season to become bigger and stronger, and there are those predicting a 20 catch season from Allen (not bad for a reserve TE), but if his blocking doesn’t improve—he is going to passed by other players.

When Scott Frost was hired, now redshirt sophomore Kurt Rafdal was singled out as a decent enough player who just didn’t fit Frost’s system by many Husker fans. That perception remains although the coaches have never said such a thing—although they wouldn’t even if it was true. The truth is, Rafdal looks like a decent TE—catching 4 passes for 67 yards in 160 snaps last year and grading okay but not great in the blocking department. A couple of his catches were of the spectacular variety. If Rafdal can add some mass and improve his blocking, he should continue to have a nice role on this team.

The only other current TE to see action last year is now redshirt freshman Katerian Legrone who managed an 8 yard catch in his 1 game and 11 snaps last year. Legrone arrived as a big bodied WR before moving to TE sometime last year. TE suits his skill set better and he could easily work his way into the mix in 2019.

This summer, the Huskers added an intriguing transfer player in junior Travis Vokolek from Rutgers. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like he will be eligible in 2019 so the only statistic he is likely to lead the team in is the number of times his name is misspelled—he’s already got a sizable lead. Kidding aside, this guy looks like a man among boys on the football field and the staff is thrilled to add a player of his caliber to the team. Look for huge things from him in 2020 and beyond.

Freshman Chris Hickman arrived in the spring but unfortunately suffered an injury. He is back this fall but needs some time to add some solid mass to his frame. He has great athletic ability and could be a great one if he develops as hoped.

As for walk ons, keep your eye on redshirt freshman Bryson Krull. I have heard great things about him but he was not on the 110 man roster (injury?). According to some, he may be a candidate to move to another position if the depth chart gets too clogged up ahead of him.

In 2020, everyone is back (sound like a broken record on offense?) Not only that, but Vokolek will be eligible and may very well fight Jack Stoll for the starting job. This group should more physically mature and ready to roll by then.

In 2021, Jack Stoll leaves. If Vokolek doesn’t go pro early, he should be the man and hopefully Allen, Rafdal, and Hickman can provide quality depth.

It is hard to say what recruiting will look like going forward. With such a young room, the staff has the luxury of being very selective in what they want. That said, they do seem to be actively looking for a solid TE to add to this class. Taking a TE apiece in the next two classes seems to be the best bet.


Summary

There are so many fluid moving parts to these two groups that it is difficult to project exactly what can and will happen in the next few years.

The TE group needs to mature physically. Fans always seem to focus on pass catching for TE’s and that looks to be in good shape but the blocking most improve. Remember, TE’s are an extension of the OL as much as (or perhaps more) than they are an extension of the WR group.

The WR group needs players to step up. The players that do should enjoy much success teaming up with a QB that has a chance to rewrite the record books at Nebraska. The ones who don’t . . . may quickly find themselves passed by younger players and on the outside looking in.


Next up . . . let’s take a look at that offensive line.
 

HuskerInOkieland

All American
10 Year Member
OFFENSIVE LINE


Offensive line play has been an enigma to Nebraska fans over the years. At times, players emerge in good shape and line play seems okay. At times the recruiting seems okay and things seem to be trending in the right direction. But something always seems to go wrong and the group never seems to take that next step.

The truth is that NU hasn’t consistently recruited enough numbers at the position. Tackle and center recruiting have been spectacularly mediocre if not downright awful at times. Even when our starting group is okay at these positions, we always seem to be one injury away from disaster.

The numbers really drained during the Pelini-Riley-Frost exchanges. It didn’t help that Frost only managed to bring in a couple of OL players in his transition class. The numbers have been razor thin and Frost and staff have not had much room for error. Frost has done a very good job bringing in some tackles and centers in his two classes. Unfortunately, the OL is just one of those position groups where it takes time. Patience isn’t easy for Husker fans. And it doesn’t help that OL is the one position group that makes fans the most nervous about the 2019 season—a season many fans hope will be the start of a great resurgence of Husker football dominance.

Let’s take a look. As usual, I will split up the interior and exterior of the OL into two groups.


OFFENSIVE TACKLE
The good news is, both of last year’s starters are back. The bad news is there is absolutely no proven depth to speak of and one of the two tackles may be better suited inside.

Let’s start with the left tackle—true junior Brendon Jaimes. Perhaps no player on the team not named Adrian Martinez is more indispensable than Jaimes. But whereas Martinez has at least some capable backups behind him, behind Jaimes is potentially a total freefall. Jaimes is said to have NFL ability but some skeptical fans are waiting to see it. His supporters would point out to those skeptics that Jaimes is a true junior and is only now beginning to fill out his form the proper way. Jaimes was thrown into the mix as a true freshman (and not an early enrollee either) and has more than held his own since then. This is the year some believe that he takes that next step into becoming an elite LT. Another issue both OTs have had is that the TE blocking has been borderline horrific the past few years. For Jaimes, this will actually be his second season at LT after playing his first year at RT. It is hoped that the stability will also play a factor in allowing him to develop further.

Even skeptical fans of Jaimes would have to agree that protecting the blind side of Martinez is the least of the OL worries on this team. If Jaimes can take that next step, the LT position can be a position of absolute strength.

At RT is redshirt junior Matt Farniok. If fans are skeptical of Jaimes, then the criticism of Farniok can be downright brutal by comparison. Farniok struggles against speed rushers but is otherwise a solid player. The thought is that if he moved inside, then his feet wouldn’t be such a liability and he would make an excellent masher—in fact, NFL caliber. But it is hard to imagine the Huskers have the luxury of moving Farniok inside given the depth issues. For now, he appears to be set to man the RT position. Farniok has worked hard to improve and is said to have made great gains in the offseason. Struggles against speed rushers aside, Farniok is a good player and a respected team leader.

The depth chart is scary after the two junior two year starters. Redshirt senior Christan Gaylord has spent time as the backup LT and blocked for special teams the past few years. He was moved to RT in the spring to see if he could take over for Farniok and allow him to move inside. However, the experiment wasn’t a total success and now Gaylord will miss his final season with an injury—further depleting the depth.

Probably the next man up is talented true freshman and massive human being—Bryce Benhart. At 6’9” and weighing 305 pounds, Benhart is a condominium with legs—and he’s still growing. Benhart arrived for fall camp and the coaches immediately began inserting him in with the top units. Besides his obvious size, talent, and athletic ability, what is impressive about Benhart was displayed in a HS All-Star game last year. Benhart went up against some of the elite DE’s in the country and gave up a sack early in the game. What impressed scouts so much is the way he bounced back. Unfazed, he continued to battle and competed extremely well the rest of the game. Sometimes the ability to respond to adversity speaks more loudly than if he had dominated all game.

If Benhart had been here in the springs, who knows?—he might have been able to secure the starting RT job and move Farniok inside. But now he will start out as a backup and most likely will not redshirt. There are those who believe he will become a starter sometime this year—perhaps as early as conference play. But hold those expectations, he still has a lot to learn in terms of both the play book and technique.

Who will the other backup be? The best guess would be redshirt sophomore Broc Bando who has risen from silent obscurity to one of the pleasant surprises of fall camp. Bando is a bit of a tweener—at 6’5” he has played mostly at guard in his early years. But word is that he has had a great summer in the weight room and is looking to provide some depth at OT.

Another potential backup, redshirt sophomore Matt Sichterman has moved inside to guard. In an emergency, he could probably move back outside if needed.

There isn’t much else there. Scary, huh? Help is on the way but how soon can it be developed? Three freshman OT’s arrived this fall. Matthew Anderson, Jimmy Fritzshe, and Brant Banks all have size and should really provide some quality depth down the road. But don’t look at them for this year—maybe not for a couple of years.

In 2020, everyone is back except Gaylord—who is basically already gone. Keep in mind that Jaimes is one of those guys who could opt to go early to the NFL. If not, the situation looks quite a bit better. Two four year starters at OT and a rising star in Bryce Benhart ready to perhaps push Farniok inside. By then, perhaps Bando will be joined by one or two of the freshmen to provide depth.

In 2021, both Jaimes and Farniok are gone. Benhart seems like a lock at that point, but who else will be there? Still a long ways to go to develop a solid OT group.

There is some very good news on the recruiting front. Nebraska has already landed two verbals from promising OT’s to help improve the depth situation. In particular, Turner Corcoran is one of the top OT prospects in the country and may be another guy like Benhart who could be counted on to play right away. Alex Conn is the other recruit but he will likely be more of a project type prospect comparably speaking. The Huskers are still in on some other OT’s and don’t be surprised if they keep stocking up on OT type players with the idea they can always move guys inside. Meanwhile, fans are hopeful that the 2021 class will be the third straight class where NU brings in a stud, ready out of the gate OT prospect. But we’ll have to wait and see on that one.


OFFENSIVE GUARD & OFFENSIVE CENTER
If you are not depressed enough by the immediate depth issues at tackle, the interior line discussion may not talk you off the ledge. Whereas the OT situation is that NU has two veteran starters and no depth, the interior situation is that there is only one veteran starter (for three spots) and lots of question marks.

We’ll start at guard because it is the least offensive of the interior positions. The experienced player referred to above would be redshirt junior Boe Wilson. Wilson looks to be the RG this year after being inserted into the starting lineup during the early part of the season last year. Once Wilson was inserted, the offense took off. Nebraska began racking up yards and the improved OL play was a big reason why.

Wilson plays with a nastiness that Husker fans crave in their linemen. After some initial issues with some penalties, he seemed to settle in nicely as the season progressed. Nebraska fans should look forward to watching Wilson play the next two years.

At LG, redshirt sophomore Trent Hixson is a walk on who was recently put on scholarship which is perhaps the best indication that he has won the job. Hixson is everything you want in a walk on player—some nice talent and a bit of a chip on his shoulders. Hixson has worked his butt off and was consistently mentioned by the coaches as a player on the rise last year. Hixson did play in 46 snaps in 2018.

The guard position seems pretty well manned especially once Hixson gets settled in. The center position is the position that gives fans the absolute heebee-jeebees. Fans have griped for years about the center play culminating in the Utter/Conrad trainwreck era. The good news is, both guys are gone. The bad news is . . . who is the new guy?

Well the mystery is over. Scott Frost just announced that redshirt freshman Cameron Jurgens has won the starting center job—“won” being a relative term here. Jurgens certainly has great talent and could be a great, great, great center.

Did you notice the qualifier “could”?

Jurgens played TE last year. He even got into a game for one snap. Then he moved to center. And then he got hurt . . . again. Then he got hurt yet again. But he’s healthy now. Really he is. He has been going full bore for about a week. Scott Frost said in his PR that “we need to keep Jurgens healthy.” Sounds good. By the way, how do you do that?

If healthy, Jurgens has the athletic ability, the drive and desire, and the football IQ to be the man at center for four years. Just cross your fingers he can stay healthy. He makes JoJo Domann look indestructible by comparison.

Looking at the rest of the depth internally, we will start at center because that is the most well-defined of the two depth wise. When . . . whoops . . . I mean, if . . . Jurgens gets injured again, the next man up is redshirt freshman Will Farniok—the brother of would be OG but for now OT Matt Farniok. Farniok has good talent but still has some growing to do and is after all . . . a redshirt freshman. Fans are split on Farniok’s long term ability. Some see him as a future star while others don’t believe he can get big enough to be an impact player. Whatever reality turns out to be, Farniok should see plenty of live action in 2019.

The next guy coming into this season was walk on redshirt sophomore Hunter Miller. Have you noticed all of these center guys are really young? Miller was the backup center last year and played 27 snaps. Miller impressed the staff early last year but injuries have derailed his bid to challenge for the starting job. Miller, when healthy, has been playing some guard and there doesn’t seem to be as much buzz this year from the coaches as to his future.

Two other walk ons have spent some time at center. Redshirt freshman AJ Forbes has impressed the coaches and looks to continue to receive plenty of work in workouts. Junior JUCO walk on Josh Wegener was brought in to see what he could do but doesn’t seem to have the skills needed to be a big time center.

An incoming player who has caught the eyes of the coaches is true freshman Ethan Piper. Piper has extraordinary athletic ability as well as one of the best motors on the entire team. Furthermore, he is a warrior in the weight room. Big things are expected from Piper either at center or guard. If the train comes off the rails, don’t be surprised if he pops into the picture.

Another possibility at center is someone like Boe Wilson moving inside—perhaps being replaced by Matt Farniok who would move inside if Benhart could replace him at tackle.

You get the idea. The situation is very fluid.

As far as backup guards go, fans of redshirt junior John Raridon—he of the narrow shoulders—have been waiting for him to emerge for years now. Raridon did play in 31 snaps last year but just hasn’t been able to add mass to his frame the right way. Every once in a while, you’ll hear something positive about him from practice but then you hear he is still a ways away. He looks to be solidly in the second unit.

Another player who could be ready to step in is redshirt sophomore Matt Sichterman. Word has been quiet regarding Sichterman this camp but previous words were that he was getting close to being ready. A former tackle, Sichterman moved inside late last year where he appears to be a better fit.

Ethan Piper could also play guard as could Hunter Miller or Will Farniok if Jurgens grabs a hold of the center position as hoped.

Of course, Matt Farniok could also help out inside if injuries occur . . . of course if Benhart is ready and . . . I don’t want to start all that again.

Incoming freshman Michael Lynn has talent but may need some time to develop.

As for walk ons, redshirt freshman Mitchell Belanger is a guy who played some center last year and was said to have impressed the coaches. But he didn’t make the 110 man roster this year and his name hasn’t been mentioned much recently. He is now listed as a guard.

In 2020, strike up the band again because everyone is back. HOPEFULLY . . . the situation will be in a much more calm and tranquil place. HOPEFULLY . . . the situation at center will be resolved, Wilson and Hixson (and possibly Matt Farniok) will be a dynamic duo (or trio with Farniok) and the young bucks like Ethan Piper will be ready for prime time.

In 2021, Wilson will be gone (and Matt Farniok) as well as John Raridon. Look for Hixson, Piper, and Jurgens to make an incredible interior starting trio if things go to plan. We’ll have to wait and see regarding depth.

Recruiting for the interior is a bit of a question mark. It appears that center is actually in good shape going forward (if we can survive 2019). Guard may actually end up being manned by OTs who move inside. In any rate, look for the numbers to be gradually increased each year.

We shall see how this all shakes out.


Summary
Last year, there were a grand total of 16 OL on the roster—the lowest number in years. That included walk ons.

This year, there are 26 OL players on the roster. 15 of those are scholarship players (counting Hixson). That is a start in the right direction. Of course 19 of those 26 players are freshmen and sophomores.

Offensive line is not a position you can rush young players. It will take time to develop the talent into the new “pipeline”.

Pipelines aren’t built in a hurry. They take time, patience, and planning. With a little luck, the new pipeline is in the early stages. The staff just need to find a way to survive long enough for the pipeline to be developed the right way.



That concludes the unit by unit analysis. I will post some final thoughts and perhaps a quick special teams look later in the week.
 

HuskerInOkieland

All American
10 Year Member
Final Preseason Thoughts


6 updates, 45 pages (my source word document) and 18,000 words later. . . .

How many of you read every word? If so, you must be a Husker fan. :Corn2:

Each year I do this, I start with one position group and move through them one by one. Usually, by the time I get to the end, the first position groups have evolved in a way that makes me want to go back and edit them a bit. This year was a bit of an exception. Things seemed rather calm and uneventful in camp.

That is until the suspensions of WR Andre Hunt and TE Katerian LeGrone shook things up a little bit. I don’t know what happened there, but it doesn’t look good.

The center situation is pretty well set. Cameron Jurgens has been named the starter and hopefully can stay healthy. Meanwhile, Will Farniok keeps working. The future at center seems like it could be in very good hands if we can survive 2019.

Speaking of injuries, there were relatively few injuries this fall. Besides Jurgens, fans will be watching JoJo Dohmann very closely. Another guy who has issues staying healthy is Tyrin Ferguson—hopefully he can have a great senior season.

I don’t usually say much about special teams but there needs to be improvement there. We have been awful for the past half dozen years or so (sans the Pierson-El freshman season). We improved greatly in the second half last year and that improvement needs to continue.

Personnel wise, we should be in good shape going forward with the possible exception of long-snapper. We have had great work the past dozen years or so with scholarship and non-scholarship players filling that role. But Chase Urbach graduates after this year and I have no idea what the plan is. Wouldn’t it be awesome if Damian Jackson can fill that role?

Meanwhile, we seem to be set at place kicker with sophomore Barret Pickering over his freshman season jitters. To review, he nailed his last ten kicks last year after a bit of a rough start. Meanwhile at punter, redshirt senior walk on Isaac Armstrong gets the first crack while redshirt freshman transfer William Przystup backs him up and then stands to take over next year. Things seem well in hand there with both left-footed punters.

Meanwhile, we have lots of options on kick returns. Between Spielman, Robinson, Washington, and others, we should be explosive on kick returns—if only we can get some blocking.

I wouldn’t read too much into the depth chart at safety. Yes, there are many walk-ons but the coaches are probably thinking about redshirts for the freshmen. If someone goes down early, look for one of the freshmen to suddenly appear. Of course, I have said two years in a row that Isaiah Stalbird is a walk-on to watch. Walk-ons are sometimes like running backs—the good ones you know right away. Redshirt freshman Stalbird could be the next great one.

Final analysis? If Nebraska can avoid key injuries, can improve special teams, and can find a way to turn the turnover deficit around, 8-4 should be easy. 10 wins or so could be in the cards. But those are a lot of ifs. There are still some depth issues and we are awfully (or wonderfully) young.

This is a hard team to read. News out of camp has been hard to come by. After years of hearing about great off-season gains only to be disappointed, Nebraska fans can’t help but feel a little jaded.

Personally, I think this team can be pretty good if things go right. And they should improve as the season progresses. Hopefully, Frost’s dedication to strength and conditioning pays dividends. And hopefully, Frost can catch a break or two and get this thing going—getting the first game in without the lightning would be a good start.

Of course, I said something very similar last year. And I finished with the following:

This is supposed to be fun. Be good to each other. We all want the same thing.

Go Big Red.

Take care all.
 
Last edited:
Top