Damion Daniels talks to press
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Husker D-Lineman Damion Daniels, Leaned Out and Feeling As Good as Ever, Hoping to Take Another Step

April 29, 2021

When Damion Daniels came around for his official visit at Nebraska in 2016, he left with the nickname “Snacks” that sticks to this day. He’s never minded it, and the coaching staff uses it as well, but be clear about one thing this season. 

“It’s D-Boogie,” he said Tuesday. 

Mostly, the name just doesn’t really apply anymore. 

At his heaviest, Daniels was 340 pounds in a Husker uniform. This spring, he has dropped down to 315. He says he feels really good. 

“It’s been a good spring for me,” the fifth-year junior nose tackle said. 

Daniels played 178 snaps on the defensive line last season, about 22 a game. For context: he was fourth among d-linemen despite being a Blackshirt and a starter. 

He played more than 25 snaps in a game only twice—against Iowa and Minnesota. Against the Hawkeyes, he saw 44 and proved more than capable of being a key piece on the defensive line. After a year of playing with his older brother, Daniels took the step forward everyone was hoping for. 

He came into camp last fall in better shape and determined to be more impactful. 

“Snacks shows up every single day,” d-line coach Tony Tuioti said before the 2020 season. “He’s been having some great practices for us, being dominant at the point-of-attack. That’s what we need out of him.”

Daniels can swallow blocks. His brother, Darrion, came in for the 2019 season and freed up Nebraska’s middle ‘backers to flow to the football and make plays whereas the year prior opposing linemen were climbing to them right away and ignoring what little presence the interior of Nebraska’s d-line had. 

With Daniels making what seems to be another step forward, Nebraska’s flexibility goes up a notch. Ben Stille and Ty Robinson would often pinch inside last season in alignments that featured only two true defensive linemen on the field. 

Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander rolled out pass-rushing packages that served two purposes simultaneously: put more athleticism on the field, get “Snacks” some rest. 

But this Daniels looks leaned up in a way he hasn’t ever before. “Feels a lot better,” he said. Maybe he doesn’t need those breaks in-game as often. Daniels could become a handful in the middle. And, as spring moves along, he just seems to be in a really good headspace. 

“Eating habits,” he said of what has changed. “The work is there practicing. It’s just eating habits, eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner, making sure I’m putting the right things in my body, just taking care of it.”

This spring, Tuioti says Nebraska has given some of its defenders upwards of 300 snaps just in 11-on-11 work. Robinson played 317 snaps in eight games last season. “These guys have played a full season in spring ball,” Tuioti says. 

That can be incredibly beneficial to a guy like Jordon Riley, trying to take a spot, or Ru’Quan Buckley, trying to come in and earn some trust. But it can also help Daniels, who is looking to establish himself as a force in the middle. 

Snacks had 19 tackles and four tackles for loss a season ago. 

What can D-Boogie do?

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