After a brief hiatus, our countdown of the 10 most intriguing Huskers of the 2022 season is back with the top five.
If you need a refresher on the first five in the countdown, you can find them all right here:
Before we dive into discussing our No. 6 pick, let’s clarify something first: 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.
With that out of the way, let’s continue the countdown with No. 5: Ty Robinson.
Ty Robinson | 6-foot-6, 310 pounds | Defensive Lineman
Robinson is essentially the last man standing in the defensive line room.
The likes of the Davis twins, Ben Stille and the Daniels brothers have anchored the defensive line throughout Scott Frost’s tenure in Lincoln. Guys like Deontre Thomas, Casey Rogers and Jordon Riley have played important snaps off the bench. All of those players are gone.
Robinson is the only defensive lineman left on the roster with more than one career tackle in a Husker uniform. There’s a certain level of intrigue with interior lineman reinforcements Nebraska brought in from the portal in Stephon Wynn and Devin Drew, but a breakout season from the fourth-year sophomore from Gilbert, Arizona, would go a long way towards making sure there’s no drop-off up front from the departures of Stille and Damion Daniels.
Robinson is the highest-rated defensive line recruit the Huskers have landed out of high school during the Frost tenure. The Huskers beat out the likes of Alabama, USC and Oregon for the 4-star lineman.
He played in just three games in 2019 to maintain his redshirt, learning behind a good group of veterans. He played in all eight games in 2020 (starting seven of them) but recorded just 17 tackles (fourth among defensive linemen). He had 2.0 tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries, but no sacks.
This past season, Robinson played in all 12 games with four starts, but only saw a slight uptick in production. He recorded 27 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks with one quarterback hurry and one pass broken up.
Robinson has shown the ability to line up at multiple spots along the line, from the nose to the 3-technique all the way to the edge. He’s flashed the playmaking ability at his size that made him such a highly-touted recruit. However, to this point, he’s more or less just been a guy in that rotation during his first few years in Lincoln.
By nature, the interior linemen in most defenses tend to be space-eaters more than stat-accumulators. It’s typically their job to eat up blockers, keep the linebackers clean and, if possible, collapse the pocket and spill the quarterback for the edge rushers to take down. However, Khalil Davis showed in 2019 that an interior lineman can still make splash plays in this defense as he put up 8.0 sacks, the most by a Husker since Randy Gregory’s 9.5 in 2013. That’s a high bar to reach, and Davis got drafted for a reason, but Robinson has the talent to be more than just a guy who takes on blockers.
In addition to the increased responsibility created by the departure of the other veterans, Robinson will also be playing for a new position coach — the same one who initially recruited him to Nebraska out of high school. Mike Dawson has taken over the whole defensive front with Tony Tuioti leaving for Oregon, and now he’ll get an opportunity to directly mold Robinson into the kind of player he thought he could be when the Huskers decided to target Robinson five years ago.
“It’s exciting for me,” Dawson said at the start of spring ball. “I think potential is through the roof with Ty, and he takes it very personally, he’s very passionate about it. I knew that about him from the recruiting process. So being able to get him to take that next step and to see him kind of — similar to where Garrett [Nelson] was a couple years ago where he’s passionate and he’s trying but kind of just all over the map to now starting to get to be ‘OK, I’ve done this before.’ He’s starting to understand that. He’s got reps that he’s banked in games and been in true football situations. So I think that for him to take that next step is going to be huge for us this this offseason.”
The defensive line is going to look quite a bit different in 2022 with new players and a new coach. Robinson is the one constant, and in order for Nebraska to avoid taking a step back on defense, they’ll need a breakout season from the only returning starter up front.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. 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.