The Huskers had several veteran transfer additions to the program this winter. Running back Markese Stepp and wide receiver Samori Touré entered rooms that needed a boost. The depth chart at those positions are wide open to make an immediate impact.
The path wasn’t as clear for inside linebacker Chris Kolarevic.
The team has returning senior Will Honas back on the team for the 2021 season. Luke Reimer and Nick Henrich are emerging young players full of potential. Garrett Snodgrass and Eteva Mauga-Clements are also fighting for time. It can be tricky joining a position group that has veteran players that are tight knit. The 6-foot-1, 235-pound Kolarevic has impressed everyone with his ability on and off the field.
“It’s been awesome getting to know the guys and just being part of this team has been great,” Kolarevic said. “I feel like I fit in really well right away, just being around the guys. I’m picking up the scheme well, spending a lot of time in the film room and trying to pick up the new defense.”
The other players in the inside linebacker room agree that he has fit in well. Linebacker Nick Henrich had a breakout ending to his 2020 season. He racked up 21 tackles in the final two weeks of play.
Henrich explained on Monday that he has loved having the transfer in the group.
“He’s a freak of nature I’ll tell you that,” Henrich said. “Super athletic, fast and physical. He’s also been just outstanding learning the defense and asking us questions. He’s been a great addition to the room.”
It is unique that as a transfer Kolarevic committed to the Huskers during the season. Usually those moves happen during the offseason. He had an opportunity to watch his future defense in action last season.
“I wasn’t able to take a visit, which was tough because of COVID but I was glad I got to watch them on TV,” Kolarevic said “It was cool watching those guys play. They do a lot of different things than I did at UNI, so it was good to just kind of see how their defense worked and how they run around. They were flying around last year and did a good job, so it was fun to watch those guys play.
Over the last two years, Kolarevic racked up 144 tackles despite missing part of two seasons. A lingering foot injury was the cause of the time missed. In 2019, he had 79 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Despite missing a few games to start that season he was still second-team all-conference. He’s gotten a lot of reps this spring with Honas being limited. With his experience in college football, he’s been able to take on the role of student and teacher.
“I think that was the expectation was that I could come in and having played a lot of snaps of college football,” Kolarevic said. “I kind of understood the concepts and how to do different things in the defense. I think the expectation was I could come in and help the younger guys out because there’s a lot of them.
“I think I’ve been able to watch film with those guys, especially the incoming guys this year because they’re trying to pick it up quick. They’re always attentive, always asking questions and I do my best to answer.”
Kolarevic has gotten rave reviews from his peers and coaches this spring. Inside linebacker figures to be one of the strengths of Nebraska’s defense in the 2021 season. The team already had talented players returning before adding Kolarevic. Inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud has a great competition on his hands.