Close-Knit Group Fuels Growth of Huskers' Secondary
Photo Credit: Paul Bellinger

Close-Knit Group Fuels Growth of Huskers’ Secondary

August 28, 2019

Tuesday after practice was the perfect picture of what's happened within the defensive back room. Junior cornerback Dicaprio Bootle, junior safety Deontai Williams and senior cornerback Lamar Jackson came to do their media availability together. The trio of Blackshirts fielded questions from media as a unit as the start of the 2019 season draws closer. 

A change happened over the course of the last 20 months that Coach Scott Frost and his staff have been in Lincoln. This secondary has become tight. Defensive backs coach Travis Fisher has taken notice. 

“It’s all about the culture,” Fisher explained earlier in fall camp. “Those guys are super close. They’re going out in the community with each other. I can’t say enough about how close they are. In the film room, they don’t watch film by themselves; they’ve always got the group in there. Sometimes they hold their own meetings. One of the safeties or one of the corners will run the meeting. I can’t say enough about how much they’ve changed and the character and the chemistry of those guys.”

One of the young (but veteran) players in the secondary says the leadership of the older players started this process. Cam Taylor explained that those older players are leading by example this year. In his mind, if players like Marquel Dismuke are doing the right things, then why wouldn’t the younger players follow that? 

Many players have taken the opportunity to step forward and show the way. 

“We’ve all collectively been doing that,” Taylor explained on Monday. “As far as the out of football aspect of things like going to the mall and having fun at Round One, we like getting together outside of football. The older guys like Lamar [Jackson] and DCap [Dicaprio Bootle], Deontai [Williams], Marquel [Dismuke], they are the ones that want to see if we are trying to go watch film. They say let’s go get in the film room and tweak some things. Those guys have put that together. I’m down for whatever, anytime.”

Dismuke is an example of hitting bumps in the road during his collegiate career. Yet, he has fought through it. Now he has earned a Blackshirt. The junior has seen some action as a Huskers totaling 44 tackles in 20 games with one start. Husker fans are eager to wrap their arms around Dismuke. He has stuck around in the program through coaching changes. The light has seemingly come on for him—both on and off the field.  

“He’s bought in and he’s still buying in,” Fisher said. “He’s coming in and he’s trying to get better. He’s asking questions. He’s holding separate meetings with the guys. When the guys wanted to go and play arcade when they had a minute, they went and played arcade together; Marquel was the one who kind of formed that. Just trying to build that chemistry with guys, so that’s totally different than what it was last year. He’s doing a great job. And then he’s making plays. He’s making plays when he gets opportunities. He’s a lot better with his hands right now.

Going into the 2018 season there wasn’t much expectation for the secondary. The season for Fisher’s group went the same as the team as a whole: up and down. It would be hard to find another unit on the team that has flipped expectations as much as they have in a year. Taylor thinks a lot of defensive back groups aren’t close like they are. That chemistry can be special. 

Lamar Jackson has a theory on why building that chemistry is so important to all of them. 

“We know at the end of the day in the back end there is nobody there to save us,” he said. “The defensive line, linebackers, they have another level of protection. If we get beat over the top or on a go ball they are going to strike up the band. At the end of the day we have to accept the pressure and prepare a little bit more. We have to be a little tighter and eye to eye with each other than most groups. We make sure that we do that daily.” 

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