The bright spot for the Huskers this season was how Scott Frost’s offense translated so quickly. Nebraska finished the season with a top 15 offense in the entire country.
Unfortunately, the other side of the ball was a different story, as the Huskers finished right around 58 in total defense. While this improved throughout the season, there are still a lot of aspects that could be improved on that side of the ball.
Let’s jump right into those grades.
This group showed flashes at certain points but it never all came together. Mick Stoltenberg was hurt. Damion Daniels, while impressive, wasn’t in perfect football shape. Carlos and Khalil Davis – both honorable mentions on the All-Big Ten team – were effective in spots, but at other times would go unnoticed. Freedom Akinmoladun was solid but uninspiring.
I think the thing with this group was there was no leader. Stoltenberg was hurt for awhile and the rest were just a group of guys. All were solid in spots and probably talented enough to be starters, there was just no one that held them all together, both from a talent perspective and a leadership perspective. They did not hurt Nebraska as much as they have in the past, but they did not help it with a dominating presence.
Nebraska’s linebackers had an up-and-down season. Luke Gifford should be commended for his effort in pass-rushing and coverage, but, like the defensive line, it wasn’t enough to make much of difference. He did earn honorable mention All-Big Ten and won the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award.
Everyone’s favorite new Blackshirt, Mohamed Barry, has one of the biggest motors I have ever seen and will look to build on his breakout All-Big Ten Third Team year to have an amazing senior season. Dedrick Young, a four-year starter, moved his way into the top five of the Huskers’ all-time leading tacklers. His reliability on the inside will be missed.
Tyrin Ferguson, Ben Stille and Colin Miller were all decent role players who should have a nice impact next season. JoJo Domann, a hybrid safety-linebacker, was a bright spot at the end of the year and should be a huge player next season if he stays healthy.
Other supposed contributors, Will Honas and Breon Dixon, did not play as much as expected, though Honas was hurt all year.
DiCaprio Bootle became a shutdown cornerback and earned All-Big Ten Third Team honors by both coaches and the media. He will be a huge part of this defense for two more years.
Lamar Jackson, who has been burned on and off the field for all three years he has been in Lincoln, took a seat on the bench midseason. Instead of giving up, he put his head down and worked. Eventually, he earned the role of starter again and turned into a shutdown corner in his own right, becoming one of PFF’s highest-rated corners through the last few weeks.
Cam Taylor had a decent year as a true freshman playing as the third cornerback. JUCO transfer Deontai Williams, looked great at safety as a role player. Junior Eric Lee only played sparingly, mainly due to untimely penalties or struggles in coverage.
Further in the defensive backfield, senior safeties Aaron Williams, Antonio Reed and Tre Neal were stabilizers, both on and off the field. Williams, who also played some at corner, did his job week in and week out and will be missed. Reed, who was known for big hits, sometimes leading to penalties, saved his best game for last. On Senior Day against Michigan State, Reed had three tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble and an interception.
Neal, a transfer from UCF, helped the rest of the team buy into the culture that Frost was bringing with him and was the definition of a leader on and off the field. While he did have solid play on the field, he will most be remembered for the example he set in changing the culture.
It may be Christmas and New Years week next week, but stay tuned for a special edition of grades: special teams!
Offensive Grades: HERE
Gambling this season? Want to try it just to see what it feels like? Go to MyBookie.ag and use promo code ARMCHAIR25 at checkout. They will match your deposit dollar for dollar. Putting in $100? You’ll now have $200.