Senior nose tackle Mick Stoltenberg left practice on Tuesday and Wednesday on crutches with his knee heavily wrapped.
The 6-foot-5, 315-pound co-captain, who has dealt with multiple injuries throughout his five years in Lincoln, started Nebraska’s first three games but was part of a heavy rotation on the defensive line.
If Stoltenberg is out of commission, defensive line coach Mike Dawson has some options to replace his snaps.
“We’re going to keep continuing to grow some of the other guys at nose also but Carlos [Davis] has been getting a decent amount of reps there and he’ll get a lot more now obviously with Mick being gone,” Dawson said. “We’re going to keep rotating the guys around and you’ll see Khalil [Davis] on top of the center sometimes like you have in the first couple games and keep going with some of the other guys too.”
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At 6-foot-2 and 325 pounds, Carlos Davis has lined up at multiple spots along the line including at the nose where he provides something of a change of pace to the likes of Stoltenberg and senior Peyton Newell. Davis’ lone sack so far this season came with him line up over the center.
“Carlos brings a lot of explosiveness combined with a lot of athleticism,” Dawson said. “He’s really fast for his size and also extremely powerful. I think it’s going to be a good fit for him there. Also, he’s got a certain amount of toughness that’s going to allow him to excel, I think, at that position. I’m excited for him to get out there and continue to get more reps to hone in on that a little bit more and hone in on that a little bit more and keep growing, I think, at that spot.”
Carlos Davis isn’t going to be the only answer, however. Newell and redshirt freshman Damion Daniels have to continue to be ready to go and Dawson said he needs some consistency out of that position.
“The other guys that are playing that spot have to continue to chip in and they have to continue to get better and to grow,” Dawson said. “I think Damion’s a good example of he’s a younger guy that, sometimes you flash — I think you guys have probably seen it — all of a sudden you’ll see him in the backfield about 3 or 4 yards; maybe on the next play, he’s down sideways a little bit too much and things like that. He’s got to continue to go, Peyton’s got to continue to be able to contribute for us. We’ve got to be bale to continue to solidify that spot a little bit.”
Nebraska has rotated in nine different defensive lineman through the first three games, Stoltenberg included. If he’s on the shelf, does that mean the rotation gets cut to eight, or might Dawson look to someone like Vaha Vainuku to step in as the ninth man?
“I think it probably depends on a lot of situations,” Dawson said. “If we get into more of the bigger packages — we went to a little four-down last week. If we continue to do some of that, some other guys may get a shot. But I think the situation for maybe the twins in particular to gain some more reps between Carlos moving over and maybe Khalil assuming some more of those reps. I think it will be a combination probably of both of those things.”
If there was one position on the team where the Huskers could sustain an injury and carry on without missing too much of a beat, it was at defensive line. Seeing a veteran go down is not ideal, but perhaps more snaps for the Davis twins could produce positive results moving forward.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.