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Nebraska DB Isaac Gifford Playing Early Comes as ‘No Surprise’

November 05, 2020

Isaac Gifford is in a unique spot.

A blueshirt addition to the roster, the true freshman defensive back didn’t host a Nebraska coach in his home during the recruitment process, he didn’t take an official visit to the school before committing, and initially walked on.

Per the terms of the blueshirt, Gifford was to be put on scholarship on the first day of fall camp.

Since his arrival, he’s put himself in a position to see the field as a true freshman in a crowded secondary.

“Not surprised,” defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said Wednesday when asked about Gifford. “You don’t exactly always know what you’re getting, but you think you know.”

Gifford played in Nebraska’s opener against Ohio State. The first opportunity for him to play as a Husker, not only did he travel with the team to the game, but got onto the field on special teams.

The Huskers don’t just throw youngsters out in the third phase of the game hoping to give them live reps, either. Special teams is important to this coaching staff, especially after that unit was so dreadful a season ago. It’s been an emphasis this offseason.

That Gifford is playing there doesn’t mean the staff just wants to put him on the field to see what happens, it means they think he can help them.

“(He’s) a guy that comes from a great family with a great pedigree,” Chinander said. “His brother (Luke Gifford) was a really great player here and really understood football and was probably more athletic than he got credit for the entire time he was playing college football, maybe even now.

“Just like Isaac. Isaac’s more athletic than he gets credit for.”

Luke, the oldest of the three Gifford brothers, currently plays for the Dallas Cowboys. When his Husker career began, he was playing defensive back on the scout team. As he put on size, he moved to outside linebacker.

By his senior year, Luke was a 6-foot-4, 245-pound pass-rusher and a captain.

Isaac is a little different. He’s smaller, for one, standing 6-foot-1. But, he’s beginning his career as a safety. Where he goes from there is anyone’s guess, but Nebraska seems to like what it has in him.

“He really understands football,” Chinander said. “He really wants to work at the game. He’s accountable. He’s dependable. And he’s going to work hard every single snap. He’s a guy that we know whether we throw him out there at nickel or safety or probably even linebacker he’s gonna know what he’s doing and he’s gonna max himself out.”

This weekend against Northwestern would figure to present a giant opportunity for Isaac.

Nebraska will be down a starter at safety and corner for the first half, as senior Deontai Williams and junior Cam Taylor-Britt will serve first-half suspensions from second-half targeting calls against Ohio State.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence in the guys we’re going to play week-to-week,” defensive backs coach Travis Fisher said Wednesday. “All of the guys, when it’s their turn to play, whether it’s somewhere during the game, whether it’s the next game or whatever it may be, they’re starters. We just keep rolling. Whoever’s in the game are starters in my eyes.”

Initial replacement options might be guys like sophomore Quinton Newsome or redshirt freshman Myles Farmer, but don’t be surprised if you see Isaac on the field.

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