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Nebraska Recruiting: Most Improved Defensive Position by 2021 Signees

December 30, 2020

Recruiting never stops and it’s easy to miss the top stories day-to-day. Recruiting analyst Greg Smith recaps all things Nebraska recruiting news, analysis and more so you never miss a thing.


The dust has settled on the early signing period. The focus always shifts to which new Huskers are going to be contributing right away for the team. That’s a natural line of thinking since fans hear so much about specific recruits. They want to know when they’ll end up seeing them on the field in scarlet and cream.

Rather than dive into that again though, let’s take a different approach to that topic. Yesterday we looked at the offensive position groups. Which defensive position groups got a boost in depth with the additions in the 2021 recruiting class?

The debate on offense was pretty easy to settle. Tight end improved so much through just this one cycle. What makes this more difficult to do on defense is that there is a lot more projection involved. This could also change. It depends on who, if anyone, commits to Nebraska after the December signing period. It really comes down to defensive back and linebacker for me.

Nebraska signed an intriguing trio of defensive backs. Marques Buford, Malik Williams and Koby Bretz are all great athletes with good upside. Defensive backs coach Travis Fisher has proven that he can mold defensive backs. Of the defensive backs Nebraska is bringing, the Omaha Westside standout Bretz might have the most potential. Coach Scott Frost was impressed with the Nebraska native.

“I’m really excited about Koby Bretz,” Frost said. “He’s a kid we didn’t offer right away, and watching him his senior year I thought he was about as good as any football player or safety we looked at. His size and athletic ability give him a chance to be really good.”

At linebacker, things were a bit of a roller coaster for Nebraska this cycle. You can’t ignore the misses—Will Schweitzer and Christian Burkhalter—who ended up elsewhere. Florida pass rusher Patrick Payton was committed for a while. Then he left the class for Florida State. But Nebraska does three high school linebackers heading to Lincoln. There is a lot to like about Randolph Kpai, Seth Malcom and Mikai Gbayor. There is a level of versatility to the game of each.

“Randy’s super twitchy. When you watch him, he covers ground fast, he strikes on the move, he’s violent,” Frost said. “Seth and him, Mikai, all the other linebackers that we recruited, I think they’re gonna be capable of playing multiple positions for us. That’s going to be valuable and help them get on the field faster.”

The versatility of the group jumps off the page. I’m going to select linebackers as the winner here. The addition of graduate transfer Chris Kolarevic helps too. There are a couple big wildcards at play though. If Nebraska lands Hawaii linebacker Wynden Ho’ohuli this weekend, the group is the winner too. Ho’ohuli is another versatile player who could fit inside or outside.

If the Huskers also land cornerback Avante Dickerson, that would make things interesting. I’d still give the edge to the linebackers but Dickerson is a top 150 player in the nation type of talent. No matter where you come down on which defensive position group is your favorite this cycle it is clear that versatility is the name of the game for Nebraska.

Recruit Watch

>> James Monds, a priority 2022 defensive back, will be dropping his top schools soon.

>> Cooper Roy, a 2022 outside linebacker target from Missouri, made first-team all-state.

ICYMI

>> In the latest Padding the Stats Jacob Padilla looked into Isaiah Roby’s big chance this season.

>> Derek Peterson looked into real rushing success as a defining number for Nebraska’s 2020 season.

>> The Hail Varsity staff is answering your questions in the mailbag including how to increase wide receiver productivity.

>> Defensive lineman Keem Green has entered the transfer portal and will leave the Huskers.

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