Greg Austin used a phrase a few weeks back: “trustable bodies.” He was talking about offensive linemen who he would feel comfortable putting in a game and knowing that not only did they know what they were supposed to be doing on any given play, but they could execute that plan.
That phrase probably means something a little different if we’re talking about the Huskers’ outside linebackers. Something more literal. It seems that each of the top three guys—Alex Davis, JoJo Domann and Tyrin Ferguson—is dealing with some kind of nagging issue. Davis missed a few days after bumping knees in practice. (So maybe not naggin with him.) Domann was back in Colorado rehabbing an unknown issue when camp started and Ferguson hasn’t had a trustable body for much of his college career.
A lot of fall camp for those guys is about managing their bodies. Outside linebacker coach Jovan Dewitt said Monday that if there were 60 snaps to be had in a day, Domann is getting around 35 right now; those are the percentages they’re working with.
With any of the guys, there isn’t a worry about their knowledge of the system, there is only a cautious approach to their health.
Still, Dewitt says he has six or seven guys.
“I feel like we can go into any game and play any one of six to seven guys and feel pretty good about their execution,” he said. “Some are going to have strengths more than others, and there are different strengths and weaknesses per guy, but if you wanted to look at capable bodies to go into the game, there are a solid six or seven guys right now that I don’t have any issue trying to put in a game.”
And, yes, one of those guys is the Huskers’ Wild Man.
“If there was a true freshman that would be closest to being game-ready it would be Garrett,” Dewitt said.
Garrett being Garrett Nelson. The 6-foot-3, 260-pound Scottsbluff native who enrolled early and never stops running. In walk-throughs, Nelson is going 100 miles an hour. He has to be reminded to slow down. The effort is never a question with him. But from a developmental standpoint, how close is he to playing?
“Oh he’s going to play right away,” Dewitt said. “He’s going to play early.”
Just on special teams or will he see time on defense?
“I’m talking in both.”
Well OK then.
“He’s a physical kid that can play on the edge and hold the point,” Dewitt said. “I didn’t get to work with him as much in the spring as I wanted to, but the really cool part for me is how well he learns. Once you’ve got some physical tools but you can learn it and add the mental aspect, it makes it so much better for everybody.”
Now into Week 3 of fall camp, Dewitt said this stage can start to become a grind for the young guys on the team who are either experiencing camp for the first time or this is only maybe their second go-around. You’re ready to hit someone new, and you’re tired of going through walk-throughs. Mentally, it’s something you have to push through.
Dewitt sees no problems in that regard with Garrett. The grind has gotten to him a little bit, “but he’s a mentally tough kid so he’s able to push through it.” As can be expected when you see the bleach-blonde hair and the buzzed-all-around-the-mullet look he’s sporting, Nelson is wired differently.
“There’s a phrase I like to use: I would much rather say ‘Woah’ than ‘Giddy-up.’ With Garrett, I don’t know if I’ve ever had to say ‘Giddy-up.’ It’s a lot of ‘Woahs.’ That’s how he’s wired differently,” Dewitt said. “For freshmen, when they get out there, they’re a little nervous about this, they’re a little nervous about that and that leads to hesitation. Garrett has embraced the idea of a desire to excel and no fear of failure. He embraces that. If he makes a mistake, it’s going to be at a million miles an hour.”
It’s actually easier than one would think, Dewitt says, to transition from having a hand in the dirt at end to playing outside ‘backer. “Because you’re trying to recruit for athletic ability,” Dewitt says. Nelson has that. He’s also got a natural ability to play in coverage, “probably more than I would have initially thought,” Dewitt admits.
Nelson is almost impossible to miss when watching the Huskers practice. All that youthful energy is being put to good use, it seems.
“I’ve been pretty impressed with him,” Dewitt said.
A trustable body right away.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.