Cam Taylor-Britt was a prolific dual-threat quarterback at Park Crossing High School in Montgomery, Alabama. As a freshman at Nebraska, he moved over to the defensive side of the ball and saw immediate playing time as a reserve defensive back.
Taylor-Britt recorded eight of his 12 tackles on defense and added three pass break-ups, seeing the field primarily as an extra defensive back in Nebraska’s sub-packages.
Last year, Taylor-Britt came off the bench again in the season-opener as an extra defensive back, but when a shoulder injury knocked starting safety Deontai Williams out for the game (and the season), Nebraska had to scramble its secondary. Taylor-Britt played heavy snaps the rest of the game and started the rest of the season. He saw some snaps at nickelback and some at outside corner, but got most of his starts at safety in Williams’ place.
Taylor-Britt was one of Nebraska’s most productive defensive players, racking up 45 tackles (four for loss), 1.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, three interceptions and two pass break-ups.
Lamar Jackson’s graduation and Williams’ return to health set the Huskers up with a pretty clear top four in terms of experience in the secondary: Dicaprio Bootle, Marquel Dismuke, Williams and Taylor-Britt.
“It’s great to have Deontai back,” defensive backs coach Travis Fisher told reporters recently. “That was a big loss for us last year; not only is he a good player but he’s been one of the best leaders on our defense. He and Dicaprio have done an unbelievable job setting the standard and holding everybody up to it. They do a great job leading for us. So it’s great to have him back. Obviously Cam Taylor-Britt has played a lot for us and is ready to do great things for us. Marquel Dismuke, and then we’ve just got a gang of young, talented guys fighting for playing time and trying to work their way up, and we’re excited about a lot of those guys. I feel really good about the secondary.”
Two of those young, talented guys are sophomores Braxton Clark and Quinton Newsome, who saw some snaps off the bench last season. Newsome has been recovering from an injury (though Scott Frost said the extended offseason has given him more time to recover) and Clark will most likely miss the entire season after a freak shoulder injury.
“Cam Taylor is probably going to be a corner for us full-time and Dicaprio on the other side,” Frost said. “Braxton was in the mix, competing with those guys and others. We have a lot of young guys that have played well and, kind of like running back, we’re trying to see who's going to step up and be the next guys up. There are four or five guys at that position that have shown us the ability to play at this level. I’m excited about the young depth at that spot.”
The coaches have said multiple times that they believe Taylor-Britt’s best position is at corner. Now he’ll get a chance to prove it.
“Corner, I like it,” Taylor-Britt said. “Honestly, I can tell you that. I’ve gotten very comfortable at the position, just trying different techniques and things to help my game out. I’m realizing different routes, the way people come off the ball. You just look at it differently now. Now that I’m a starting corner, well, just staying there at corner instead of at safety, it’s different but I like it a lot.”
Taylor-Britt said his time at safety has helped him grow as a corner as well, giving him a better understanding of leverage and where his help over the middle will be on any given play.
Frost said they were planning to have Clark, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound redshirt sophomore, be part of the regular rotation. With Bootle (5’10”, 195 pounds) and Taylor-Britt (6-foot, 205 pounds) set to start in the base defense, Clark’s length could have been valuable to throw out there against some of the bigger receivers Nebraska will face. It’s possible Nebraska was hoping to slide Taylor-Britt inside to the slot on passing downs while Clark plays on the perimeter, getting Taylor-Britt and his knack for making plays closer to the action.
If Newsome (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) can get back to full strength, he could be an option as that first corner off the bench. Another option is redshirt sophomore Nadab Joseph (6-foot-2, 190 pounds), the final scholarship piece of Nebraska’s 2020 recruiting class who joined the team late in the summer. Joseph was the top-rated junior college cornerback according to ESPN after playing five games as a redshirt freshman at Independence Community College.
“Nadab is doing great,” Fisher said. “He’s with us, he’s doing great. He jumped right in the pot with the rest of the guys. So that relationship is going good. Obviously he’s working, trying to catch up on things; very short time being here.”
Taylor-Britt praised Joseph’s attitude and his desire to learn, calling him a great player.
Once you get past Newsome and Joseph, you’re looking at true freshmen: Tamon Lynum and Ronald Delancy III. Lynum enrolled back in January, but obviously did not get a chance to go through a full spring ball season. Delancy arrived during the summer, and Taylor-Britt called him a “dog” who plays “real tough and gritty.”
“Some of the young guys are doing a lot better than when they first got here,” Taylor-Britt said. “They’re in the system now, they’ve got the plays down pat. They’re really just trying to learn little things and tweaks here and there from us since we’ve played the game a little bit more and they’re just getting here.”
The injury to Clark is a big hit to Nebraska’s depth at corner, and the Huskers certainly can’t have any more bad luck at that position, but Fisher does have some intriguing options in his room if they need to turn to their bench.
But it will be open to those two upperclassmen, Bootle and Taylor-Britt, to set the tone. Taylor-Britt will finally get to play the position the coaches envisioned for him when he arrived, and he said he can’t wait for the season to get here.
“It feels like freshman year again for me, not just with the season being so long, the start, but just so anxious and ready to play. We haven’t played since November of last year and they’ve been pushing everything back constantly. When I was a freshman, I was just so anxious and ready to play that first game. I feel like that right now. I feel like if we had to play this weekend, we could play this weekend as a team and come together.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.