Huskers Preview 2019





Blackshirts should grow by leaps and bounds with depth up front, influx of size BH News Servic “I try to instill it — we’re 4-8 until we prove differently,” NU defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said. There’s considerable evidence that Nebraska’s defense can do just that.

play with a chip on your shoul- der, and we better not play flat. Until we win on Oct. 31 or Sept. 7, or whenever the games are, we’re a 4-8 football team, and everybody perceives you as that. So it’s time to prove them wrong.” There’s considerable evidence that Nebraska’s defense can do just that. Sophomore nose tack- le Damion Daniels is confident enough to give it a numerical goal. “I would love to see us not give up more than 21 points per game,” Daniels said. “I’m pret- ty sure — the way everybody’s been working — that this de- fense can get the job done.” Among the strengths that should lead to a big jump in de- fensive performance in 2019: » Two true nose tackles whose size and strength fit the proto- type of Chinander’s 3-4 scheme. And they’re brothers. Darrion and Damion Daniels both weigh 340 pounds, lift a lot more than that and command two blockers in the middle of the defense, which can gum up inside rush lanes and keep blockers off of linebackers, who are then free to more aggres- sively pursue the ball carrier.

draws praise from Chinande and Frost. “That position group ha made such a 180, it’s hard to de scribe it,” Frost said. » Sweet, overarching continu ity. After three straight years of changes — different coordina tors, different schemes, differ ent defensive priorities, differ ent styles of tackling — Nebras ka’s defense finally has som familiarity. Only one position coac changed in the offseason. Chi nander didn’t have to star from scratch with players. Poor run fits should become better. Blitzes that might have been a half-second off should be tight er and more punishing to the quarterback. The technique coaches used to teach lineback ers and defensive backs on cre ating takeaways are still bein taught. And now, players can teach each other. “Over the summer — whe we can’t be around them muc — we can have our own 7-on-7 workouts. The D-line can work out on their own — workin calls, working pass rush,” Chi nander said. “Those kids can teach each other now.”

Last year, NU relied on oft-in- jured Mick Stoltenberg and un- dersized Carlos Davis, who has moved back to defensive end. “Now we’re talking about, ‘OK, let’s penetrate, let’s get in that backfield, let’s cause hav- oc before the running back can start on his track,’ ” Barry said. “That’s what it’s about — TFLs and impactful plays.” » The deepest defensive line in the Big Ten. New position coach Tony Tuioti has 14 schol- arship linemen, half of whom are juniors or older. With the late addition of Highland Com- munity College transfer Jah- keem Green, NU now could play nine defensive linemen. That’s a three-deep, and a major advan- tage. Carlos and Khalil Davis could both start at end. Or it could be Ben Stille and Deontre Thomas. That versatility, Davis said, means NU’s defensive line can match or exceed the perfor- mance of the 2015 line that sent two players to the NFL. “I think we can be better than that group,” Davis said. “Those guys played three years and left. We’ve got more experience.” » Sheer size and length. Thanks to weight room gains

and intentional decisions to re- cruit taller players with greater reach, Nebraska has embraced looking like a Big Ten defense vs. the Big 12/Big Ten hybrid it once was. NU’s secondary is likely to boast at least three starters at 6-foot or taller, and three of the four incoming freshmen are 6-2 or taller. At outside linebacker, newcomers like Garrett Nelson (6-3, 260) and Jamin Graham (6-4, 240) represent Nebraska’s new direction. » A secondary that was sneaky good late last season and could be special this sea- son. Rocky outings against Col- orado, Michigan and Purdue eventually gave way to stingier showings against Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa. Ne- braska allowed league oppo- nents a 54.9% completion rate — fifth in the Big Ten — as cor- nerbacks Dicaprio Bootle and Lamar Jackson locked down the edges of the field. Even with new starting safe- ties — Deontai Williams and Marquel Dismuke are likely candidates — coaches expect the secondary to make more plays in 2019. Position coach Travis Fisher continually

By SAM MCKEWON BH News Service

LINCOLN — Hope doesn’t win games. Optimism lasts only until that first series when the Blackshirts take the field against an opposing offense. Eventually, all of the chemis- try and collective belief the Husker defense built in the off- season will get a final grade on the scoreboard and in the stat sheet. The confidence will be proven or unfounded. NU’s vocal leader, inside line- backer Mohamed Barry, knows it. “We underachieved the last several years, and everyone knows it,” Barry said. Nebraska’s defense allowed 31.3 points per game last season. In 2017, it was 36.4. The Huskers haven’t been in the Big Ten’s top five of scoring defenses since joining the league, but the per- formances became particularly obscene the past 24 games. NU won eight of those, by the way, and defensive coordinator Erik Chinander isn’t going to let his unit forget that. Not yet. “I try to instill it — we’re 4-8 until we prove differently,” Chi- nander said. “You guys better

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