Time flies, doesn’t it?
June is nearly complete, and with it camp season. The schedule for Big Ten Media Days is out—it’s July 26-27 in Indianapolis and Nebraska is going on the first day. The start of fall camp in late July is getting closer.
There’s not a better time than now to start a countdown of the Huskers’ 10 most intriguing players for the 2022 season.
Before we get started, what do we mean by intriguing? Oxford Languages defines intriguing as arousing one’s curiosity or interest. In other words, fascinating. Which 10 Huskers fascinate you the most heading into the season? That’s what we’re trying to figure out.
In countdown fashion, we’re starting at No. 10, and it takes us to the defensive backs room.
Tommi Hill | 6 feet, 190 pounds | Corner
Travis Fisher’s defensive backs room lost a ton of starting experience from last year. Corner Cam Taylor-Britt and safeties Deontai Williams and Marquel Dismuke have moved on from the program. That trio combined to start over 75 games during their careers.
The good news is corner Quinton Newsome returns. The fourth-year player from Georgia played well last year in his first season as a starter. Opposing offenses tested Newsome often in 2021, especially by aiming their run games to his side to see how he would hold up. Newsome responded well, finishing fourth on the team in tackles with a career-high 57.
Against Michigan, one of the more physical run offenses Nebraska played in 2021, Newsome collected a career-high seven tackles—five of which were solo stops—and one pass breakup. There’s always room to improve in the tackling department, but Newsome should be considered the leader of the defensive backs room—four-game starter Myles Farmer will likely be leaned on for leadership at safety, too—heading into the 2022 season.
“Where I want to see him is be more of a leader in that room. He is the leader in the room, but I want to see him take over that room as far as holding guys accountable, and himself,” Fisher said of Newsome prior to the spring game last April. “And I also want to see him this summer spend more time in the weight room, spend more time working on his stuff, getting himself prepared for the season and picking up some weight, giving us more in the run game.
“Corners always want to give you what they want to give you in the pass game, but giving us more in the run game is very important for me. So I want to see him spend more time in the weight room and just work on him.”
But who will win the starting corner job opposite Newsome? The top candidates right now appear to be veteran fifth-year player Braxton Clark and first-year Husker Tommi Hill, who transferred from Arizona State following his true freshman season in 2021. Omar Brown, a transfer from Northern Iowa who earned All-American status and the FCS Defensive Freshman of the Year honor in 2019, could push his way into the conversation if healthy, too.
Of those three, Hill is the most intriguing.
At 6 feet, Hill has the length and movement skills Fisher and defensive coordinator Erik Chinander are looking for with their defensive backs. But Hill also has the right mindset needed to play corner at the Power 5 level. Finding confidence won’t ever be a problem for the Orlando, Florida, native. During his first media session of the spring, Hill brought up names like Kobe Bryant and Mike Tyson when describing the attitude he wants to play with.
But Hill also noted the playbook. As a first-year player, learning it as quickly as possible was the biggest challenge. While he admitted the mental part of the game would take time, it was a different story for the physical aspect.
“Athletically, I’m already there. Nothing to talk about with that,” Hill said.
Hill’s athleticism allowed him to be a kickoff returner at Arizona State. He returned four kickoffs last season, averaging 19.75 yards. Hill could be an option in the return game at Nebraska as well.
During the spring, Hill relished the opportunities when he matched up with receiver Trey Palmer, the speedy transfer from LSU who figures to be a key part of first-year offensive coordinator Mark Whipple’s passing attack. Palmer showed flashes of being a big-time playmaker in the SEC, but Hill didn’t seem to care about that.
The corner craves the competition someone like Palmer provides.
“It’s a dog against a dog,” Hill said of what the matchup between Palmer and himself looks like. “Dog against a dog, always. Every receiver I line up against, they’re going to get the best out of me.”
Hill was mostly a backup in a veteran-filled defensive backs room at Arizona State last year. He played in 11 games and recorded nine tackles, but looks to be in position for a larger role in Lincoln. Style-wise, he prefers man coverage. Bump and run. That makes sense coming from someone with the arm length and size of Hill.
“I like being on an island,” Hill said. “Coach Fish (Fisher) knows he put in a dime package for me on the island, so he trusts me on the opposite field. He trusts me just going against the best one, and I trust myself.”
Nebraska’s pass defense last year did a good job of limiting chunk passes down the field. The Huskers were first in the Big Ten in fewest 40-yard pass completions allowed (1) and second in fewest 20- (29), 30- (13) and 50-yard (1) completions. But Nebraska is going to have a new-look defensive backfield this fall, led by Newsome.
Hill figures to be in the conversation, too, and is an intriguing option in the back end of the Husker defense.