The defensive line group is among the deepest on the Huskers’ roster coming into the 2021 season. There are several players with experience alongside young players making a push. Players need to compete at a high level daily. It would be natural to worry about locker room issues with so many players vying for playing time. That isn’t the case so far.
The chemistry in the defensive line room is the best it’s been during Deontre Thomas’ time at Nebraska. There is healthy competition in the room but it is a tight unit. The group has gotten closer because Thomas and Damion Daniels made a change. The pair was close with the Davis twins. Once they left though, Thomas and Daniels needed to bring other players into the group.
“Now since they left we kind of hang out with Casey [Rogers] more, we hang out with Ty [Robinson] more and we hang out with the young guys more,” Thomas said. “We bring them up with us. I want to say it started with us because we were really tight with the twins. Since they left we just kind of broke it down and went down with the younger guys. We started going bowling with each other, going out to eat with each other. That chemistry is strong, really strong.”
The extra bonding time off the field has helped the players trust each other on the field more. Now there is an expectation of what the standard needs to be in the group. The defensive line wants to raise the bar on how they play. The defensive line takes time to meet outside of film with the defensive line coach Tony Tuioti.
“We will get everybody together after practice. We’ll go upstairs and watch film together and talk about what we can do better to keep growing the next practice,” Thomas said. “When we talk to the young guys, they’re listening to us because they see how we play. We have a standard. We need to meet that standard because if they’re not meeting that standard after practice we’re running. We’re doing wave drills. Nobody likes to do that.”
Tuioti has seen that extra work and bonding pay off for his group early in fall camp. He can tell the difference in how the defensive line approaches practice on a daily basis.
“You know the camaraderie is right when everybody in the room is holding each other accountable,” Tuioti said. “I don’t have to do it as a coach. I don’t have to tell them the expectation of running to the football. They’re doing it on their own. If guys aren’t doing it they’re holding them accountable. They’re doing extra stuff after practice. I really, really like where the room is at.
“I like where the mentality is at.”
Being accountable to your teammates because you don’t want to let them down can be a powerful motivator. Each player on the line is competition for snaps in a deep room. That adds up to create spirited competition that can last all fall camp and into the season.
Greg is the Recruiting Analyst for Hail Varsity and has covered Husker athletics since 2013. He has always had a passion for sports while growing up in the Chicago area. As he got older and had to hang up his cleats and sneakers, he realized his passion for sports went beyond just watching and attending games. He has covered many events from the Rose Bowl to championship boxing matches. If he’s not talking sports, he’s hovering over his grill. He is married to an amazing woman, Kim, and they have a dog that barks when Greg yells at the TV during games.