With just over a week to go until the 2018 season begins, Nebraska is in the process of sorting out its depth chart. Some aspects of the depth chart appear to be settled, while while others are still a work in progress.
Nebraska held a situational scrimmage Thursday morning, which was expected to clarify some aspects of the depth chart. More should be known soon.
Until then, the Hail Varsity staff got together to try and predict Nebraska's depth chart for the season. There was some agreement and plenty of disagreement. Needless to say, our staff does not envy the decisions ahead for Nebraska's staff.
Offensive Depth Chart
|Second Team||Third Team|
Adrian Martinez (DP, GS)
Tristan Gebbia (ES, JP)
Tristan Gebbia (DP, GS)
Adrian Martinez (ES, JP)
|LT||Brenden Jaimes||Christian Gaylord||Trent Hixson|
|LG||Jerald Foster||John Raridon||Broc Bando|
|C||Cole Conrad||Hunter Miller||Will Farniok|
|RG||Tanner Farmer||Boe Wilson||Collin Shefke|
|RT||Matt Farniok||Matt Sichterman||A.J. Forbes|
Maurice Washington (DP, JP, GS)
Tre Bryant (ES)
Tre Bryant (DP, JP)
Maurice Washington (ES)
Devine Ozigbo (GS)
|WR (x)||Stanley Morgan Jr.||
Jaevon McQuitty (DP, ES, JP)
Jaron Woodyard (GS)
J.D. Spielman (DP, ES)
Mike Williams (JP, GS)
Tyjon Lindsey (DP, ES)
Jaron Woodyard (JP)
Andre Hunt (GS)
Conor Young (DP, ES)
Andre Hunt (JP)
Jaevon McQuitty (GS)
Mike Williams (DP, ES, JP)
J.D. Spielman (JP, GS)
Jaron Woodyard (DP)
Andre Hunt (ES)
Tyjon Lindsey (JP, GS)
Andre Hunt (DP)
Jaron Woodyard (ES)
Conor Young (JP)
Kade Warner (GS)
|TE||Jack Stoll||Austin Allen||
Katerian Legrone (DP)
Kurt Rafdal (ES, JP, GS)
Okay, first position up for debate is the quarterback. Jacob and Erin say Tristan Gebbia wins the job, Greg and Derek say Adrian Martinez wins the job. We’ve all already written a lot about this already, so briefly state your case here for why you went with who you did?
DP: I’ve been on the Martinez camp for months. Over the last two weeks, my confidence has waned, but not disappeared. I think Martinez’s ability to playmake and turn nothing into something with his legs wins out. He might not be the faster blinker, but there’s no better way to improve in that regard than by getting in-game action.
ES: I have gone back and forth on this over the last few weeks, using the new redshirt rule as my justification for starting Martinez. If he gets four games to determine if he’s ready, why wouldn’t you start him against Akron and find out? Well, I don’t think that’s how Scott Frost actually operates. I think he’ll pick who he feels is the best option to manage his offense. From the sounds of it, Gebbia’s decision making is excellent and he has the stronger arm. Unless Frost needs a quarterback who can bail the offensive line out a bit (which is a possibility), I’m taking Gebbia.
JP: All along I’ve said I thought Gebbia would start because as young as he is, he’s already played a lot more football than Adrian Martinez because of Martinez’s injury. It just seemed to me that unless he’s truly special, it would take some time for Martinez to adjust to the speed of the game at the college level after missing his senior season of high school ball. Combine that with Gebbia’s reputation as a quick decision-maker and accurate passer and I think Gebbia gives the team the best chance to win out of the gates. Since we haven’t gotten to see either of the quarterbacks in game situations outside of the spring game, I haven’t seen enough evidence to make me change my mind yet.
GS: My answer is based around essentially the opposite feelings of what Jacob said. I do think Martinez is special. I also believe we short-change his ability to throw the ball because he missed his senior season. I’m always perplexed about the line of thinking that Gebbia’s “experience” will help because he’s never played a down of college football. In addition to that, if a Gebbia-style QB was what they wanted, the next two QBs they have verbals from would look more like him than Martinez in my opinion. There will be bumps in the road no matter which freshman QB is selected. As I’ve said all along, Martinez is the future, rip the band-aid off now and lets get this thing going.
The next position is running back. Everyone agreed on the first guy but after that things got dicey.
DP: Mine was pretty much based off of what I expect the carry distribution to look like. Bell will get the most (15-18), Washington will be second (12-14) and Bryant will be third (8-10) as they look to keep him as healthy as possible. The guy I don’t know where to slot is Devine Ozigbo. Is he just a goalline/short-yardage back for them? Or should we be taking all the offseason praise he’s been getting as a sign he’s due for a significant workload? Maybe he moves to third, maybe even second. He works too hard to not be on the field. Coaches have said they’ll run three or four backs in a game; Ozigbo is definitely in the top four.
ES: I went back and forth on where to put Washington and Bryant. I ultimately placed Bryant second behind Bell only because I believe he has the talent and that Washington could use a little time to settle into college life. I think Washington is a major talent (and has received the hype for a reason) but I wouldn’t be surprised if he needed a little time to adjust to college ball. So I’ll give Bryant the nod for now but he’ll need to stay healthy and keep improving, because Washington will be coming for his spot.
JP: I went with Washington at No. 2 solely off the hype. I had Bryant at that spot as soon as I heard he was cleared to play, but I’m wondering just what his workload is going to look like as they seek to keep him healthy.
GS: My order of running backs is also based on how I think it’ll ultimately shake out with the number of carries on the season. Bryant would be one slot higher if I believed he’d be healthy. If he puts together a healthy season, this running attack could be special pretty quickly but it’s just hard to put faith in that which is too bad for Tre. I could see a scenario later in the season where Bell and Washington get 85% of the carries which should produce good results.
Wide receiver was all messed up. Greg had guys out wide that everyone else had in the slot and vice versa and no one agreed on third-string anythings. Explain your reasonings.
DP: This is the part of the depth chart that will matter the absolute least. They’ve got seven or eight guys with a realistic shot at playing significant snaps in 2018. Whatever position they’re playing doesn’t really matter. Everyone is learning everything. Here’s this from offensive coordinator Troy Walters: “Our outside guys have to play in the slot as well. You’ll see Stanley [Morgan Jr.} on the outside and you’ll also see him in the slot when we get in certain formations to create mismatches. In this offense, the receivers have to learn everything. They have to know whole concepts which makes it a little more difficult, tougher than maybe some other schools, but once they get it they’re valuable. You can’t pinpoint where they’re going to be on any given play.” So mine was really about tabbing guys behind the no-brainers that should get pretty good burn this year; I went with junior Jaron Woodyard, freshman Andre Hunt and walk-on junior Conor Young.
ES: I’m actually proud of Greg for slotting Kade Warner into this depth chart. I really thought about it. I think he has some potential to become a factor when needed in Frost’s offense. Aside from that, I just placed players where I’ve heard they’ve seen the most time in practice, took Jacob’s depth chart into serious consideration and talked it through with Derek. By the end, I feel pretty OK with what I landed on. And I think we’re underselling Andre Hunt.
JP: Honestly, it was more or less a slightly educated blind guess. Since we don’t get to see these guys ourselves and with so many new bodies at that position, it’s hard to know where Troy Walters sees his receivers playing (not to mention the fact that at least some of them are working at multiple spots). I went with the bigger-bodied possession types at split-end, I put the speedier types at flanker and then I put Spielman and Lindsey at the slot. Lindsey probably belongs at flanker but I don’t know who else is working at slot, and I gave the last spot to Conor Young as one of the most experienced walk-ons. At the Duck-R spot, it sounds like it’s Miles Jones and Wyatt Mazour and that’s really it in terms of guys working primarily at that spot.
GS: It was so hard to slot guys here. I don't think it will matter much who is slotted where in the end. Morgan, Spielman, Williams, Lindsey, Woodyard, Hunt and McQuitty will all see the field plenty. McGriff is a bit of a forgotten man but I can see a role for him since he’s been here since spring.
Defensive Depth Chart
|Position||First String||Second String||
Ben Stille (DP, JP, GS)
Khalil Davis (ES)
Khalil Davis (DP, JP, GS)
Ben Stille (ES)
Damion Daniels (DP, JP, GS)
Peyton Newell (ES)
Vaha Vainuku (DP, GS)
Damion Daniels (ES)
Peyton Newell (JP)
Breon Dixon (DP, GS)
Alex Davis (ES, JP)
|ILB||Mohamed Barry||Will Honas||Jacob Weinmaster|
|ILB||Dedrick Young II||Collin Miller||
Anthony Banderas (DP, ES)
Joseph Johnson (JP, GS)
Caleb Tannor (DP, GS)
Breon Dixon (ES, JP)
Alex Davis (DP, GS)
Caleb Tannor (ES, JP)
Ethan Cox (DP, GS)
Jeramiah Stovall (ES)
Braxton Clark (JP)
Braxton Clark (DP, GS)
Eric Lee Jr. (ES, JP)
Aaron Williams (DP, ES, JP)
Deontai Williams (GS)
Tre Neal (DP)
Deontai Williams (ES, JP)
Marquel Dismuke (GS)
C.J. Smith (DP)
Marquel Dismuke (ES, JP)
Aaron Williams (GS)
Deontai Williams (DP)
Tre Neal (ES, JP, GS)
Cam Taylor (DP)
Dicaprio Bootle (ES, JP, GS)
Dicaprio Bootle (DP)
Cam Taylor (ES, JP, GS)
Moses Bryant (DP, GS)
Ethan Cox (ES, JP)
One defensive end spot was a straight wash, the other spot Erin differed from the group on her first two guys. No one could agree on defensive tackle.
DP: Damion Daniels will have one of those years that people look at in December and say, “Woah.” He’s a young talent with size and athleticism and maybe the perfect role in spelling Mick Stoltenberg. Utah grad transfer Vaha Vainuku feels like a forgotten man given all the other new faces, he’ll play this year. At end, Ben Stille is the unit’s most disruptive returning player from a defense last year that wasn’t very disruptive; I see no reason why he shouldn’t get every snap he can handle.
ES: I essentially just flipped Stille and Khalil Davis from everyone else, which is fine. I could see it going either way, so I'm comfortable being wrong here because I know Stille is very disruptive. We’ll see.
JP: I think it’s safe to call Mick Stoltenberg the starter at nose tackle, but after that, it’s tough. I could see any combination of Freedom Akinmoladun, Ben Stille and Carlos Davis at end. In the end, I think Stille’s too disruptive not to start and I went with Akinmoladun because of his experience and seniority. Khalil Davis feels like the fourth defensive end, and I think either Davis twin could slide in at any of the three spots. I went back and forth between Peyton Newell and Damion Daniels at the backup nose, but Daniels’ size is something that Nebraska just doesn’t have anywhere else on the roster. Deontre Thomas and DaiShon Neal provide great depth at end and I think the two freshmen, Tate Wildeman and Casey Rogers, redshirt this year.
GS: The defensive line depth has probably been the most pleasant surprise of fall camp based on everything I’ve heard. When it comes to the nose tackle spot, I don’t think it’s wise to expect a full season of 70 plays a game from Stoltenberg so having Daniels to get a good amount of snaps is huge. We haven’t heard much about Vainuku but even if he is just a scout-team guy initially, he will be valuable. I do think we will end up with surprises here by the end of the season especially at defensive end because guys are seemingly too close in talent during camp. A couple of guys will separate themselves during the season.
The entire first unit at linebacker saw everyone in agreeance, as well as the second-string inside backer unit, but there was disagreement in the second- and third-string spots for both.
DP: The consensus is the top four across the board are set; Tyrin Ferguson has had that good of an offseason. I also happen to think the second four are also set. The depth at inside linebacker has taken some hits over the last few months so Collin Miller sliding in makes a ton of sense as he’s got a better shot at playing time inside than out. The backup outside spots go to the two new guys for me: Breon Dixon and Caleb Tannor. Both were picked specifically by this staff for this defense. That’s important.
ES: I didn’t even know what to do with one of the third-string inside linebackers spots. I’ll be honest about that. I don’t envy the staff having to sort those spots out.
JP: The first five inside linebacker spots were easy, and after the departure of Avery Roberts I simply plugged in the only other inside linebacker who was on the 110-man roster for the start of camp, Joseph Johnson (he’s listed as an outside ‘backer on the roster but Jovan Dewitt said he’s working inside). As for the outside spot, there are four names that come up every single time when you talk to anyone about the position: Luke Gifford, Tyrin Ferguson, Alex Davis and Breon Dixon. I know people want to write off Davis for the shiny new toy in Caleb Tannor, but it sounds like the freshman is that fifth guy and I think Dewitt is excited about Guy Thomas’ upside even if he might not be ready quite yet.
GS: I feel like a lot of this discussion comes down to how much you think Caleb Tannor will play right away and who he can take snaps from. I know the staff has had a plan to have Tannor make an impact since he signed in February. Combine that with Jovan Dewitt raving about his football IQ and he’s going to play. I think he takes snaps away from Davis so I have him third string. I still hold out hope for Guy Thomas’ future but the light just hasn’t come on yet.
The secondary was a mess, which seems natural given that appears to be everyone’s main area of concern heading into the season. Defend your picks.
DP: The secondary is probably the closest unit the defense has to the offense’s wideout group in terms of the number of bodies you’ll see rotating in and out. Defensive backs Coach Travis Fisher said he’s got six or seven guys now pushing for snaps after just one, maybe two, in the spring. The biggest reason I have Cam Taylor where I do is the motor, the one thing that always comes up when guys talk about him. If he really does look like he’s been playing corner his whole life, you’ll live with the occasional mistakes to enjoy the momentum-swinging plays. Ethan Cox makes the second group with Dicaprio Bootle. Moses Bryant makes the third group. Do not forget about him. At safety, there’s just an overabundance of options. I thought long and hard about sliding Aaron Williams for Deontai Williams instead of Tre Neal but I ultimately think the staff would rather slide Neal than a guy who has been through as much with the Huskers as Aaron has.
ES: I absolutely will not defend my picks. Just kidding. I feel good about Lamar Jackson, Aaron Williams, Tre Neal and Dicaprio Bootle, but I did pay notice to Derek’s Cam Taylor pick. I’m buying the hype on Taylor and could justify that too. I’ll take Bootle for experience, but I think the secondary could look different come Big Ten play.
JP: I really have no idea in the secondary. It seems like Aaron Williams and Tre Neal would be your starters based on experience, but Antonio Reed and Deontai Williams have received plenty of praise throughout fall camp. I think Travis Fisher is doing everything he can to get the most out of Lamar Jackson’s talent and Dicaprio Bootle was arguably the team’s best corner in his somewhat limited role last season. I’ve never seen Cam Taylor play football, so I’m going to hold off on that one for now. I originally had Will Jackson at one of those backup spots until I heard how far he had slipped down the depth chart which led to his departure. I plugged Braxton Clark into that spot based on the praise Fisher gave him after Monday’s practice and his similar measurables to both Jacksons, but it could easily have been either of Eric Lee Jr. or Ethan Cox in that spot as well.
GS: At corner, I think there will be some bumps as they sort out who is ready for primetime and who has actually improved their game versus just talking about getting better. I don’t buy that Aaron Williams could go from not taking contact until this week and then all of a sudden be one of the starting safeties. They have been cautious with him all spring and fall so I can see that continuing to be the case. Put me down as the conductor of the Deontai Williams hype train. He’s a worker and hits everything but needs to work on his communication. That makes sense about speaking up because he’s more of a quiet guy. That’s why I’d like to pair him with Tre Neal to start because Neal knows the ins and outs of the defense. Beyond that, I think Dismuke and Reed have gotten steady praise. Domann is one to watch to make a quick move for me because if he’s healthy they have to find a role for him. Suddenly Travis Fisher has a good problem on his hands at safety.