After losing four contributors from last season’s team in Ben Stille, Damion Daniels, Deontre Thomas and Jordon Riley, Nebraska was thin along the interior of its defensive line during the spring.
Following the news that Casey Rogers, a projected starter on the d-line, entered his name in the transfer portal and reserve d-lineman Tate Wildeman retired from the sport, the unit became even thinner.
Nebraska took to the transfer portal in search of help along the trenches, and Big Red found it on Tuesday with Devin Drew. Drew, who entered the portal in early February after spending the past two seasons at Texas Tech, committed to the Huskers.
At 6-foot-2 and 280 pounds, Drew provides not just a big body the Huskers sorely need but also experience playing Power Five football, which is something that Nebraska’s young interior linemen outside of projected starter Ty Robinson lack. Drew was a steady contributor to the Red Raiders’ defensive front in 2020 and 2021, racking up a combined 55 tackles and .5 tackles for loss.
Prior to his time in Lubbock, Texas, Drew played two seasons at nearby Iowa Western Community College, where he earned first-team National Junior College Athletic Association All-America honors in 2019. In 2018 and 2019 the Kansas City native recorded a combined 97 tackles, 23.5 stops for a loss and 14.5 sacks. His 2019 season was dominant as he had 9.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss.
Though the addition of Drew helps, it doesn’t fix the depth problems on Nebraska’s interior d-line. The Huskers still need experienced bodies there and will still be searching for help through the portal.
“It would take a load off some of the guys,” Robinson said of a potential transfer addition prior to Rogers’ announcement and before the spring game. “I can say that most of us have over 400 game live reps this spring ball. So, just body-wise, we all made it through (the spring) and it shows what we can do.”
Drew joins an interior d-line group led by Robinson, who had career-highs in tackles (27), tackles for loss (4) and sacks (2) last season. Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander and defensive line/outside linebackers coach Mike Dawson are hoping the young players behind Robinson take the next step in their careers to be contributors in 2022.
That group includes Nash Hutmacher, Mosai Newsom, Ru’Quan Buckley, Jailen Weaver and Marquis Black. It’d be wise to throw walk-on Colton Feist, a 6-2, 280-pounder from nearby Yutan, Nebraska, into the conversation, too. With Rogers out this spring while rehabbing an injury, Feist was the one who started next to Robinson on the first-team defense in the spring game.
Feist echoed what Robinson said about adding more bodies through the transfer portal. The more help, the better.
“You just have to go out there and do your best every day and hopefully you’ll still be able to play,” Feist said after the spring game. “So if we can get some guys to get us better, it’ll make us all better as a whole.”
Hutmacher will be expected to take the next step in his development as well. At 6-4 and 325 pounds, the third-year player from South Dakota is strong and isn’t easily moved by offensive linemen. It remains to be seen where his conditioning is at and how many snaps he can give the defense during a game.
Nebraska also landed Ochaun Mathis last Saturday, one of the most coveted defensive ends/edge rushers in the portal.