I don't know if it was a compliment or not. Given the context and previous comments, I'm going to give it half-compliment credit at best. Full amusement credit, though. At least for me.
Here's what defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said about competition in the secondary, where the Huskers return two starting corners and zero starting safeties (emphasis mine).
“If I was one of those DBs, I don’t know what they think, but if I was one of those guys, I wouldn’t feel very safe right now. I don’t think anybody’s got a job. I don’t care if it’s Lamar [Jackson] who’s been a three-year starter or Dicaprio [Bootle] who’s the pass breakup guy. None of those guys better feel safe right now because there’s a good push coming and a lot of young guys coming in.”
The Pass Breakup Guy? PBG?
Yeah, I can get behind that. Bootle did tie for the Big Ten lead with 15 pass breakups in 2018, a total that ranked 10th nationally. That was the highest total at Nebraska since Fabian Washington had 15 in 2004. DeJuan Groce (17) has the single-season record at Nebraska, Ralph Brown (50) the career record.
Given that Bootle entered last year with zero pass breakups, 15 in one year is probably enough to cement him in Chinander's mind as PBG. But, PBUs are also something of a middle ground, greater than a completion, of course, but less than an interception.
And maybe that's the charitable view.
"You think about guys talking about a PBU, no,” defensive backs coach Travis Fisher said last fall. “That’s not a PBU. That’s a missed opportunity. So you’re going to get a negative point on that.”
Bootle's 15 PBUs weren't just a high total, they were something of an anomaly. Of all the players with at least 15 PBUs in 2018, Bootle was the only one without an interception. (Former Husker Chris Jones noticed and gave Bootle a hard time about it throughout the season on Twitter).
But that wasn't just a Bootle thing. Nebraska collectively struggled to turn breakups into takeaways. Just 15.9% of the Huskers' passes defended (PBUs + INTs) were interceptions at the end of the regular season. That rate, against a national average of 19.3%, ranked 99th nationally. Maryland led the country at 36%, and, this is hard to even fathom, USC was last after intercepting just 6% of its total passes defended.
That'll be something worth watching in 2019. If Nebraska has similar pass breakup numbers this season, but converts a more typical percentage of them into interceptions maybe Bootle (or some other Husker) can be The Interception Guy at the end of the year.
Everyone would like that. Fisher would love it.
The Grab Bag
- Nebraska landed its second commitment for 2020 on Wednesday. Greg Smith shared five thoughts on Zavier Betts (Premium) and asks if it might be the start of a commitment spree for the Huskers.
- Fred Hoiberg could have a lot of work to do on the roster-building front, but that will feel familiar to him.
- Is it easier to change a culture in basketball or football? Our staff tackles that question and more in the latest Mailbag.
- Football Practice gift basket: Scott Frost, Erik Chinander, Sights and Sounds, Photos and Observations.
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.