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Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Husker Defense Focusing on Detail to Fuel Improvement

October 06, 2020

Senior inside linebacker Collin Miller has played a lot of football in his time at Nebraska, appearing in 35 games during that time. He made the move to full-time inside linebacker last season. He had a nice season too, notching 67 total tackles (five for loss) and one sack.

It was just his first taste of playing the position full-time. Now he’s hungry for more.

“I would say something that we are all trying to work together on and especially me is pre-alignment and pre-assignment,” Miller said during media availability on Tuesday. “That was my first year last year of really playing in the games and feeling Big Ten football. Those are some big guys up there. So, I hit the weight room hard and worked on conditioning.

“One thing that I want to work on is pre-assignment. Where is my gap? If he goes here what do I do? I think one thing we did well was running to the ball. We definitely need to get to the ball more. We need more turnovers so we are focusing on stripping the ball and interceptions. We are trying to be loose and free. But know our assignments and get the job done.”

Knowing assignments allows defenders to play looser, which would be a big step forward for the Huskers. That’s key in appearing to play faster than you are, as well as your pre-snap recognition. When it’s good, you you are not frozen trying to diagnose a play. That’s the goal for any defense.

Miller also feels like there was one positive about quarantine. It allowed the defensive players to slow down and hone in on nailing down the details of the defense.

That’s helped in the early stages of fall camps too. Players are now flying around to the football making plays and having fun. It was a point of emphasis this offseason to become a better tackling team and Miller believes the Huskers are up to the task and digging into the details.

Inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud shared that sentiment on Tuesday.

“It always starts with striking blocks and tackling,” Ruud said. “That’s where everything starts. I think we’ve made some little tweaks here and there for the guys to understand leverage a little bit better. We are doing a little bit better job teaching them where their help is coming from and that helps you tackle.

“Whenever you tackle a really good player with no leverage in a lot of space with no help, that’s hard to do even if you are an all-pro player. When you know where your help is you know what angle to take. It lets you play faster and surer of yourself. Those guys have done a nice job of understanding those principles. I think the tackling will be better because of that.”

Brandon Vogel took a look at Nebraska’s poor tackling back in December after the season. It was one area that the team did not improve in year over year. Per SportSource Analytics, Nebraska had a missed-tackle rate of 12.3% in 2019. That was good for 92nd nationally. It was also 13th within the Big Ten Conference.

Let’s say the Huskers can land in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten in missed tackle rate. That would be a significant improvement.

It might also lead to a few more wins. Consider the Huskers have lost a whopping nine games by one score or less in the last two seasons. That’s what players like Miller want to correct.

It’s all in the details.

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