Nebraska running backs coach Ron Brown and defensive coordinator Erik Chinander joined ‘Sports Nightly’ on Wednesday night to detail Friday’s home game with Iowa.
Brown started the season as a senior offensive analyst but was bumped up to running backs coach following the firings of four assistant coaches on the offensive side of the ball. Brown is a longtime Husker assistant, coaching at Nebraska for 24 seasons from 1987-2003 and again from 2008-14.
Will fans see running back Jaquez Yant against Iowa? Brown said there’s a “very good chance” of that. Yant was healthy and made the trip to Wisconsin last week, but didn’t see the field. On Monday, head coach Scott Frost said Yant didn’t play due to a coach’s decision.
“Those who really love you will discipline you when they need to,” Brown said. “I love Jaq, and we all do. And we did what we needed to do in terms of the protocols of this university and also our football team. He didn’t do anything really drastically bad, but we have some team rules in certain things. So we needed to deal with that, we needed to pay rent on that. The debt has been given and we move on.”
Nebraska’s running back room has been nicked up lately. Starter Rahmir Johnson will be a game-time decision, which could mean more carries for Yant, Markese Stepp, Marvin Scott III and Brody Belt—like it was for Wisconsin.
Chinander’s defense has allowed the fewest average points since he’s been in Lincoln. In 2018, Nebraska allowed an average of 34.3 points against Big Ten opponents. In 2019, the average was down to 30. Last season, it dipped to 29.4. This season, the Huskers have it at 26.4, its best mark yet in the Frost tenure.
Chinander reflected on the longtime Husker seniors who will be playing their final games as Huskers, including Ben Stille, Deontai Williams and Marquel Dismuke. Throw JoJo Domann, whose final game was against Ohio State, in there too.
“Shoot, they’ve meant everything. Some of those guys, when we first got here, to be quite honest with you, I didn’t know if they’d make it the whole time,” Chinander said. “And some of those guys who I thought weren’t going to make it turned out to be my favorite guys on the whole team. They’ve built a great culture in that room, and I think that’s highly to do with that senior group and the other leaders.”
Some of Nebraska’s talented juniors will face a decision on whether to come back for another season or move on from the program. Nebraska, as well as other programs around the country, are in an interesting spot with their Senior Days due to the NCAA-granted extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s a lot of guys who could be done or could come back,” Frost said on Wednesday. “Senior Day will be interesting because I think there’s going to be some guys who don’t walk that maybe don’t play anymore, and maybe some guys who do walk and come back and play another year. The way I feel about it is, anytime we can honor any of them for the hard work they put in here, we need to honor them.”
One of the biggest question marks going forward is quarterback Adrian Martinez and his future with the program. The fourth-year starter has one year of eligibility left but will miss the Iowa game after undergoing surgery on a shoulder he injured at Wisconsin. Elsewhere on the offense, tight end Austin Allen has already made up his mind and took to social media to say the Iowa game will be his last in a Husker uniform as he eyes an NFL future.
Here’s Allen’s thank you to Husker fans:
One last ride. Thank you Husker Nation! pic.twitter.com/dO4YJbvMSK
— Austin Allen (@austin11allen) November 24, 2021
Nebraska’s defense has a handful of juniors who will need to make decisions on their futures. While corner Cam Taylor-Britt hasn’t publicly announced he’s moving on from the program, he has accepted an offer to play in the Reese’s Senior Bowl:
We would like to OFFICIALLY welcome @HuskerFBNation DB Cam Taylor-Britt (@CamTaylorBritt_) to the 2022 @reeses Senior Bowl! #GBR 🌽🌽🌽#BestOfTheBest #TheDraftStartsInMOBILE™️ @JimNagy_SB @PaniniAmerica #RatedRookie pic.twitter.com/bnzYbCfa3q
— Reese's Senior Bowl (@seniorbowl) November 16, 2021
Other juniors on the defense that may be mulling their future include defensive linemen Damion Daniels, Deontre Thomas and Jordon Riley, and outside linebackers Caleb Tannor and Pheldarius Payne.
More news and notes:
>> Brown said the transition with the firings has been tough. He once recruited Ryan Held and Greg Austin to Lincoln back in the day, then had to watch them lose their jobs.
>> Chinander said some of his young players are starting to develop and show the potential that the coaches saw when recruiting them. Some were sort of thrown into the deep end at Wisconsin so to speak, which isn’t an easy opponent to do against.
“We had some guys in there when Damion Daniels got banged up there in the second half, and Nash Hutmacher got a ton of reps in that game and I thought he played well against a really good offensive line,” Chinander said. “Blaise Gunnerson got a lot of reps and he played really well for his first game as a freshman—your first game ever and you have to go play against a really salty Wisconsin crew, I was proud of the guys for doing that.”
>> Isaac Gifford will tell you he needed to be better at Wisconsin, Chinander said, but the second-year freshman from Lincoln Southeast still did really well for his first start.
“I thought he played a physical football game. He was coming in there and setting the edge and he had to do it on some guards and some tight ends, and I thought he did a good job in the run game and did well in the pass game also,” Chinander said. “There are a few things we can clean up, but Isaac’s a competitor, he’s a guy who really wants to win. He’s all in for Nebraska and he’s going to be a really good player for a lot of years here.”