Outside linebacker coach Jovan Dewitt estimates that he has eight or nine outside linebackers that are healthy and competing for spots right now. He’s been trying to match them up as different pairings to see who works best together. Suffice it to say, he has no shortage of options in his position room.
One player that figures to have a prominent role as an outside linebacker in this defense for the 2018 season is Ole Miss transfer Breon Dixon.
“I think in this situation it works out really well for him because everybody’s new right," Dewitt said on Thursday. "It’s not necessarily that he’s a new guy. He does a good job in coverage because he’s got a natural coverage skillset. Out in space he does a really good job, he’s doing really well.”
Until Nebraska has a player in Lincoln that has an impact like Shaquem Griffin did at UCF, the coaches will be consistently asked about players filling that role. Could Dixon have a similar role as Griffin did for UCF last season?
“Hopefully so, that’d be nice," said Dewitt. "He’s doing a nice job learning the scheme like everyone else. Every now and again there is a flash of the athletic ability from his safety and DB days. His ability to burst, you don’t normally see at that spot.”
The elephant in the room however, is that Dixon is not currently eligible to play right away for Nebraska. The NCAA has seemed in no particular rush to rule one way or the other on Dixon or any of the other Ole Miss transfers at other schools. How does Dewitt manage the reps given Dixon’s unique circumstance?
“You want to make sure he gets the reps he needs should be announced eligible," he said. "All we are trying to do right now in spring ball is build a bank of reps where everyone can learn and understand what we are trying to get accomplished. You don’t want to build too big a bank of reps if he’s not going to be eligible but you have to give him enough opportunity in case it should happen.”
Even though there are a good number of outside linebackers to get ready for the fall right now, there are some big names potentially waiting to make an impact. Dixon is waiting for a decision on that waiver, Luke Gifford is currently out with an injury and 4-star 2018 signee Caleb Tannor is on his way this summer.
Dixon has SEC experience, Gifford has played significant snaps effectively and Tannor was one of the crown jewels of the staff’s first recruiting class. Can you allow yourself to think about what things could look like as you get current players reps?
“At this point in spring it's really more about developing the guys we currently have," Dewitt said. "As we progress through spring, we can see what we have as an asset and what we may have as a liability. That’s when I start to incorporate those guys and start to single out roles for some of the guys we currently have; understanding, planning and worrying about future with where we may be deficient in one place or another.”
Once the Huskers have their full complement of players at the outside linebacker spot, it will be certainly be a position to watch in the fall. The Dewitt Bank of Reps can only help the group get up to speed in year one of this new attacking defense.
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.