Tuesday was defense day in Lincoln following the Huskers’ third practice of fall camp. It was the first chance for cornerbacks coach Donte Williams to address the loss of Chris Jones, one of Nebraska’s leaders at corner and an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick last season.
“Its hard, what can you tell him? The way I look at it, losing Chris is losing an All-American,” Williams said. “That’s not just a regular corner out there, that’s a special player. Its hard to tell him anything in particular because Chris is already hard on himself. All you can do is be in high spirits but the Chris Jones that I know, he’ll be back 100 times better than he is now.”
Jones’ injury may put a little more focus on fellow senior Joshua Kalu at safety in terms of leadership, but that won’t be a new role for him.
“Anytime you got Kalu, even when Chris was there, Kalu is the mouth of the south,” Williams said. “So Kalu was already a vocal leader. Chris is more of a lead-by-example guy but when he talks everybody listens because he doesn’t talk often. Kalu is a born-made coach.”
The fallout from the Jones injury will mean that some players who haven’t seen much time on the field will have to play significant snaps, including sophomore Eric Lee Jr. and redshirt freshman Dicaprio Bootle. Consistency will be the key for the young corners vying to replace Jones.
“Just doing what they’ve been doing. Being consistent. Not letting Monday be great and Tuesday be a drop off,” Williams said. “Right now those guys are doing that so if they keep their bodies fresh, they’re going to have a bright season.”
Lee, who got the first crack at replacing Jones during Sunday’s practice, spoke about the next-man-up mentality you have to take as a football player.
“It’s an unfortunate circumstance with Chris going down but like Coach [Mike] Riley said back in spring, in football you are always one injury or play away from getting in the game. So it definitely sucks that Chris went down but it gave me an opportunity to fill in and take his spot. It’s a hard situation, but it’s an opportunity for me. I feel like I don’t have an expectations or anything, I feel like Chris and I are two different players and bring different things to the table.”
Other news and notes:
>>Williams feels Lamar Jackson has made a big jump with his maturity, and that going through a rougher-than-expected freshman year was a little bit of humble pie for him.
>>After talking with Jackson, he is both confident in his game and taking on more of a leadership role. That’s a great sign for this Nebraska team searching for its next crop of leaders.
>>Lee feels ready to contribute to the team after getting his feet wet last season. He needed to get those first hits and tackles out of the way, but said now he feels good.
>>Safeties coach Scott Booker had a good line about Drew Brown helping him sleep “4.5 hours a night instead of four” because he doesn’t need to worry about that position.
>>Linebackers coach Trent Bray was very complimentary of true freshman Guy Thomas. Bray noted that he is physically ready to do what they ask and asks a lot of great questions, which is key for a young guy.
>>Defensive tackle Carlos Davis thinks the defense got a nice jumpstart in the spring. Now they just need to come in focused with their heads on straight daily because they want to be great.
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.