Now in its third year as a summer series, we’re looking at Huskers who could be major swing factors in Nebraska’s upcoming season. One a week, working from the bottom up.
- No. 10 Chase Contreraz
- No. 9 Garrett Nelson
- No. 8 Chris Hickman
- No. 7 Ty Robinson
- No. 6 Dedrick Mills
- No. 5 Matt Farniok
- No. 4 Collin Miller
No. 3: Cam Taylor-Britt
The man is a character. Asked to describe him with one word, Cam Taylor-Britt’s teammates used phrases like “vivacious” and “swagful.” One guy summed it up: playmaker.
Nebraska’s had an everywhere man in the secondary the last two years. Taylor-Britt may very well be one of the most versatile players on the team. Whether he sticks at one spot on a more full-time basis in 2020 or continues to float, either way he stands to be one of the most valuable.
Taylor-Britt played around 60 snaps a game a season ago. A converted high school quarterback, the Alabama native was expecting to play corner and nickel in his second season in Lincoln. When safety Deontai Williams went down in the season-opener, Taylor-Britt suddenly became a safety.
“I don't know if everybody understands how much he helped us last year when moving Cam to safety,” defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said in March. “Cam was really good, but he had only played corner and nickel throughout spring, fall camp and then he gets moved to safety.
“I think he’s a really, really, really good corner, and really good corners, when you’ve got to put them at safety, that’s not a good deal,” defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said. “Because corners are too valuable. Depending on what you’re doing with that nickel job, a slot corner can be just as valuable as an island corner. It’s not like he’s not valuable wherever he’s at.”
As a sophomore, Taylor-Britt got 10 starts—seven at safety and three at corner. He posted 45 tackles, four tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, three picks, two pass breakups and 1.5 sacks. His four forced fumbles ranked third nationally and tied for the most by a Husker since 1999.
With Lamar Jackson moving on to the NFL, there’s an open spot up for grabs at the corner spot opposite Dicaprio Bootle.
Would that spot be open still if Nebraska had more than just two of its 15 spring practices?
Would Taylor-Britt be a set-in-stone leader of the defense?
Anytime I think about the junior-to-be, one sequence sticks out.
Nebraska has a 10-point fourth-quarter lead on Colorado and the Buffs are at their own 4-yard-line. Quarterback Steven Montez hands the ball off, but then he gets it back. It’s a flea-flicker Colorado has executed well enough to get Marquel Dismuke to bite from his safety spot. Taylor-Britt, at corner, looks into the backfield, losing KD Nixon for just a second, and it’s over.
While Nixon runs into the end zone 96 yards later, Taylor-Britt is left at midfield, face down in the grass.
Scott Frost talks often about toughness, but not about just ditching the hoodie when it gets cold. Frost wants players who won’t crumble in adverse situations. Taylor-Britt picked himself up off the mat that day and was back out on the field for the very next drive. “You watch some guys make a mistake like that in the game, a big play like that in a game, and they’re out for a series but he was right back in,” position coach Travis Fisher said. “He answers to his mistakes and doesn’t get flustered.”
Bootle was in his ear walking off the field after the PAT.
“I just kind of ran over to him. I have been in this situation before. I know what it is,” he said. “I actually slapped him and told him to keep his head in the game. He just let me know that he was going to come back. I told him that there was plenty of time in this game and that he could still make a play. That he’s got the chance to make it right again.”
With five-and-a-half minutes remaining in the game and Colorado wideout Laviska Shenault streaking down the right sideline as he tries to take a kickoff the distance to tie the game, Taylor-Britt runs him down and punches the ball out.
“He is out there doing something that you can’t teach,” Bootle said. “He’s out there running after the ball-carrier. He did what I expected him to do. He made a play. He knocked the ball out and gave the offense an opportunity to put something into motion when we needed it.”
A lot of what makes Taylor-Britt exciting is intangible. He wears a “Humble Over Hype” hoodie to pressers but he’s short and concise with his words, letting actions carry the necessary weight. He owns up to shortcomings and holds teammates accountable and is one heck of a people person (read: expert peer recruiter).
Sneaky captain candidate in 2020.
Where does he play? Can he be an every-down kind of guy who plays loose and free at corner without giving up the big plays?
I wonder what the upcoming season will look like for younger defensive backs like Braxton Clark, Quinton Newsome and Myles Farmer. Nebraska has Dismuke and Williams back at safety and Bootle at corner for one more year. Getting the young guys some live action wouldn’t hurt. Clark was someone NU was willing to move Bootle to safety for last year to get him on the field.
With a run defense that hasn’t been inside the top-100 nationally in yards per carry allowed since 2016 and an entirely new line up front, Nebraska is going to need its secondary to be leak-free in 2020. That group is going to have to anchor the defensive side of the ball.
Nebraska was tied for 34th in takeaways a season ago with 21. It might need more to offset losses.
It needs to make splash plays.
Taylor-Britt’s calling card.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.