As fall camp rolls on, increased competition across the board will be key if Nebraska wants to see better results from its defense in 2018.
In hopes the culture and product on the field can be flipped quickly, the Huskers have brought in a lot of new faces since January. Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander noted on Monday how those new pieces are fitting in. In his mind, they have increased the level of play so far in fall camp.
"There's a lot of new pieces," Chinander said. "The older guys must have done a great job of teaching the younger guys and the young guys have put some work in because they are playing at a high level right now.
“With the young guys and the new guys we've added playing at a high level, the competition has increased everywhere.It's been really good for the entire defense to be honest with you. We look like a completely different unit on both sides I think than the spring."
One spot in particular that had to improve was the secondary. Chinander and coach Scott Frost have been vocal about that unit needing to get better and the group seems to have taken the message to heart. And Chinander has said he thinks the secondary was the most improved unit on the defense.
When that news reached cornerback Lamar Jackson, he had a familiar response as to why the back-end of the defense is getting better.
“In my mind, we have more numbers," Jackson said. "We have more guys so every time we meet together, we come closer as a group. We have more people that are good football players that we actually respect. Both corners and safeties. We have a lot of guys competing for depth chart spots.
"When you have that, everyone will have more energy and play with swag. That’s what we are doing right now.”
Overall, Nebraska has added 51 new players to its roster since Frost took over the program. So naturally, players are being challenged by that.
“A lot of guys they brought in are great players," Jackson said. "That freshman class is the best since I’ve been here. So, I respect those young guys. They are all willing to learn, work, hit and compete. They aren’t shying away from anything.
"That’s why I respect the guys they brought in because they are working. It’s easy for me to love them up because I respect what they are doing.”
There are a couple of newcomers to the secondary that are hard to miss. Junior college transfer Will Jackson and true freshman Cam Taylor are a pair of players that have generated buzz during fall camp. They've also helped highlight the importance of increased competition.
“They’ve brought depth for sure," Jackson said. "Like I said, they’ve brought in more guys that are talented and pushing people. It’s good to have people on my back to push me so I know that ‘OK, he’s a baller too’. It keeps me on my stuff to not make mistakes. At the same time, it keeps us going. That’s why we have a lot of energy in the first four days. “
Jackson and his teammates have aceepted the challenge to the secondary by defensive backs coach Travis Fisher, Chinander and Frost. Which players will emerge from the competition to lock down their roles? Time will tell.
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.