2019-08-12 18:13:491 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
-by Sammy Jacobs, Contributing Writer; Image: Nebraska linebacker Mohamed Barry. (Image Source: Bruce Thorson/USA TODAY)
Bloomington, IN—Here’s a look at the Nebraska defense and special teams heading into the 2019 season:
Nebraska must turn around their defense and if they cannot, it may not matter how good their offense is, their shot at the West Division title will probably go out the window. The Huskers ranked 94th in total defense, 88th in scoring, 96th against the run and 78th against the pass. A repeat of those numbers will drive the Cornhusker faithful bonkers.
Improvement all starts up front for Nebraska as they must find some production on the line. The Huskers must up their total of 25 sacks and 63 tackles for loss from last season. Nebraska brings back both starting ends in Ben Stille (25 tackles, five TFLs and five sacks) and Carlos Davis (27 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, one sack). They will need to up their production. Behind them is Khalil Davis who was good in reserve as he posted 41 tackles, 7.5 TFLs and 3.5 sacks. In the middle of their three-man front will be graduate transfer Darrion Daniels, who is a mountain at 320 pounds. Sophomore Damion Daniels will back him up.
Leading tackler Mohamed Barry is back at linebacker. He made 112 tackles including 10 for a loss and two sacks. Three other upperclassmen will be alongside Barry to fill out the four-linebacker look. Alex Davis will try to close out his career on a high note, junior Collin Miller attempts to build off a 17-tackle sophomore campaign, and JoJo Dorman will man the hybrid safety/linebacker spot after 19 tackles a year ago. It is a veteran group that needs to step up and the depth behind them is thin with sophomore Caleb Tannor, junior Will Honas. and senior Tyrin Ferguson in reserve.
The Cornhusker secondary will have to break in a pair of new safeties, but returns two very good veteran corners in Lamar Jackson (no not that Lamar Jackson) and Dicaprio Bootle. Jackson had 28 tackles to go along with two interceptions and seven pass breakups. If teams try and stay away from him, they have to deal with Bootle, who led the Big Ten with 15 pass breakups. So, pick your poison. The Cornhuskers also have four-star freshman Noa Pola-Gates ready to fill in and provide a spark off the bench.
Getting back to the safety positions, Nebraska has a pair of juniors in Deontai Williams and Marquel Dismuke who are ready to step up. Williams picked off two passes and recovered a fumble to go along with 23 tackles, while Dismuke made 10 tackles and blocked a punt. Senior Eric Lee will provide veteran depth and C.J. Smith is a freshman who could see the field.
The Cornhuskers return senior punter Isaac Armstrong, who averaged 43 yards per punt last season. Placekicker Barret Pickering had a great freshman year hitting 14-of-18 field goals. Wide out JD Spielman is an elite punt returner as he averaged 17.3 yards per return last year and could take over kick return duties should Maurice Washington not rejoin the team. Washington averaged 15.7 yards per return as a freshman last season.
To read more from Sammy Jacobs and his staff at HoosierHuddle.com, click here.
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