Nebraska Cornhuskers wide receiver Samori Toure running through defenders for extra yards after the catch
Photo Credit: John Peterson

Nebraska Recruiting: Which Young Huskers Could Raise The Defense’s Ceiling in 2021?

July 11, 2021

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 2021 season will be such a pivotal one for the Huskers. We are now in the fourth year of coach Scott Frost running the program. There have been some weird circumstances around the start to his tenure. The first year is almost always a transition year. That went about as expected, even if the start to the season was rough. The second season under Frost is where most expected things to take off. It was surprising when it didn’t. Last season during the pandemic, no one knew what to expect. This year fans are expecting to see progress.

Despite the uncertainty and struggles on the field, the team has recruited well.

This year more than ever though it doesn’t feel like fans are waiting on the next batch of recruits to save the program. The players to turn this thing around are already on campus. I took a look last week at offensive players that could raise the team’s ceiling in 2021 and beyond. Who are some of the young players on the defense that can help raise the ceiling for 2021 and beyond? Let’s take a look at a pair of defensive players.

It’s much harder to select “young” players on defense who could both contribute this season and have many years left to play at Nebraska. The first player mentioned isn’t young. Yet, he’s just a junior entering his second season at Nebraska. Pheldarius Payne is player that could be due for a breakout during the 2021 season. He had a rough first year on campus.

“At first when I came in, I had to shoulder surgery,” Payne said. “So as soon as I came in I rehabbed for about two months. I had to hurry up and just lift weights. I don’t think I was benching 135 pounds. I was benching like 25 on each side. Then I got COVID, so I had to sit out and I lost weight. Then I moved to linebacker and I had to learn a whole new system. I never played outside linebacker before that. After that, it was fun.”

Despite those setbacks, Payne put together a solid season in 2020. Still, there is a higher ceiling for Payne to reach. He notched one sack last season but he could be the Huskers best hope for a sack specialist on the defense. Payne getting to five or more sacks would raise the defense’s ceiling for the 2021 season.

In a lot of ways, the 2019 recruiting class is supposed to be the one that bring the Huskers back to the national stage. We haven’t seen that yet but there are a lot of players from that class that fans are eager see take on larger roles. One on the verge of doing that is defensive back Myles Farmer. Despite having two returning “super seniors” at his position, Farmer should see an increased role in the 2021 campaign.

Farmer showed what he is capable of last season against Northwestern. That game he had a pair of interceptions and a big role on special teams. He was due for more playing time before a freak injury before the game against Purdue. How the Huskers handle working him into the regular defense this season is one of my top questions on that side of the ball. Farmer has the makings of an impact player on the back end of Nebraska’s defense.

Recruit Watch

>> Lewis Central defensive tackle Hunter Deyo committed to Iowa State over the weekend.

>> Virginia 2022 athlete Ahmarian Granger committed to Old Dominion on Saturday.

>> Nebraska 2024 quarterback target Dylan Raiola helped his Prime National baseball team to a tournament win.

ICYMI

>> Husker defensive lineman Ben Stille joined the Varsity Club podcast to talk to Derek Peterson about his upcoming skills camp.

>> Former Texas A&M coach Rob Childress is set to join the Nebraska baseball staff.

>> Former Husker Glynn Watson Jr is staying busy while back in Nebraska this summer.

>> As Derek Peterson writes, the Huskers’ season-opener against Illinois means a lot.

>> Three Huskers are competing for Team USA at the 2021 FIVB U20 World Championships.

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