As Nebraska transitioned into the post-spring portion of its offseason, the depth on the interior defensive line seemed thin. On Wednesday, it became thinner.
It was confirmed by Hail Varsity that Casey Rogers, who was entering his fifth season in the program, entered his name in the transfer portal. Rogers, a 6-foot-5, 295-pounder, was a projected starter next to Ty Robinson on the Huskers’ defensive front. Rogers has battled multiple injuries during his career in Lincoln, and was held out of this spring’s practices physically while he rehabbed an injury, but was expected to be back for the fall.
Rogers missed the first five games last year as he worked back from an injury. He played in the final seven games, racking up 17 tackles, three for a loss and a half sack. The Syracuse, New York, native recorded 42 tackles, six tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in his Nebraska career.
Nebraska’s defensive front has gone through change dating back to January. Tony Tuioti, last year’s d-line coach, left to take the same position at Oregon. That led head coach Scott Frost to have Mike Dawson coach both outside linebackers and the interior d-linemen. While Rogers wasn’t practicing physically during the spring, he was still on the field learning and listening.
“The good thing about Casey is he has a super-outgoing personality,” Dawson said on Feb. 28. “So it’s easy for him to interact with guys, it’s easy for him to stay engaged. The trick for him—don’t get bored. You have to be there (at practice) and it’s not going to be as fun. I’ve been there—when you’re not coaching or playing, those practices tend to seem like they last a lot longer. When you’re playing or coaching, they go by too fast.
“But the big part for him will be to stay focused, gain the mental reps, watch somebody else make mistakes and then make sure he doesn’t repeat them when he comes back in.”
Rogers joins d-lineman Jordon Riley and outside ‘backer Pheldarius Payne as Huskers who entered the portal despite being expected to see reps in the rotation in 2022. Riley followed Tuioti to Oregon while Payne landed at Virginia Tech.
What’s it mean?
As mentioned before, Rogers was expected to be a starter next to Robinson on the d-line. If Rogers stays in the portal—there’s always the option that players can return to the program; Payne is an example of that last December when he returned after putting his name in—it makes it all the more important that Nebraska hits the portal hard for a replacement, which it was already likely doing.
There are options already on the team, they’re just inexperienced. Someone out of a group that includes Nash Hutmacher, walk-on Colton Feist, Mosai Newsom, Jailen Weaver and Marquis Black will need to emerge. Feist, a 6-2, 280-pounder from nearby Yutan, Nebraska, started next to Robinson in the spring game with Rogers unable to play. Hutmacher showed he can be a strong and physical presence against the run, just like Damion Daniels did for the defense in 2021.
Make no mistake about it, though: Rogers’ potential departure hurts Erik Chinander’s defense.