Nebraska Defense Ready to Face Improved Tanner Morgan
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Nebraska Defense Ready to Face Improved Tanner Morgan

October 08, 2019

It was 70 degrees and sunny in Lincoln for Nebraska’s Tuesday practice. It’s a far cry from what the Huskers will likely experience in Minneapolis on Saturday (38 degrees with snow showers in the forecast). For now, Nebraska isn’t worried about the weather (plenty said so at Monday’s press conference) and more worried about preparing for Minnesota.

Defensive Coordinator Erik Chinander addressed the media following Tuesday’s practice, where he discussed the challenge Minnesota’s wide receivers present.

"Really good group in the Big Ten," Chinander said. "Illinois presented some issues, obviously Ohio State has a great receiving corps but these guys are really good, too. I recruited Rashod Bateman a little bit so I'm familiar with him, but they have a good crew. They have a guy in Bateman that . . . you know a lot of yards after catch, a lot of yards per catch and [Tyler] Johnson can go over the middle. They have a nice complementary offense and they do a good job of getting those guys in position to make catches."

Quarterback Tanner Morgan made his debut against Nebraska in 2018, taking over when starter Zack Annexstad was taken to the hospital with an an unknown internal injury. While the Gophers lost last season, Chinander has seen a lot of improvement from the quarterback since.

"He's grown a lot," Chinander said. "He's making some good decisions with the football, you've seen him make some throws that he didn't make last year. Some mistakes he made last year that he isn't making this year so I think he's grown as a player, and I think he's managing their offense very well."

With that said, Chinander has also seen a lot of growth from his own defense.

"Fighting four quarters of defense is always good,” Chinander said. “Keeping them out of the end zone for a good part of the game is good. Getting a turnover when things matter, I mean that's a huge play in the growth of a team and a defense to make a big play when it matters. Not just make one when you're up 43-8 or whatever, but there's a lot of growth within the unit and a lot of growth in the team."

More news and notes: 

>> CBS Sports released its 2020 NFL Mock Draft on Tuesday and Lamar Jackson is listed as the 17th pick in the first round. So, does defensive backs coach Travis Fisher see Jackson as a first-round type of player? 

“I see his game, if he continues to get better day by day, the sky is the limit,” Fisher said. “I don’t have anything to do with the draft. That deal is so tricky. I don’t like to talk about it as much. If it happens, that would be awesome for Lamar and his family. Just the day-by-day process of getting better. Giving 110% of trying to find a mistake on film. Find the mistake and correct it to see how fast we can correct that mistake so that next Saturday we are showing a fixed mistake.

“That dude is fixed. He looks good. He’s appreciative. Its about being a pro. So that’s how you approach that deal. If you approach it the right way, guys will be lucky enough to play on that level.”

>> Chinander admitted that there’s indecision every week with who will and who will not redshirt. He joked that he’ll never actually know the right answer, but he’ll definitely hear about it one way or another if the Huskers lose a game.

With that said, he’s pretty clear on what the whole rule means and how he’s approaching it.

“For the most part right now, those guys we want to reserve those redshirts for, the biggest decisions right now is who is going to help us on special teams and/or who is down,” Chinander said. “Cam Taylor[-Britt] is down, we need another safety to come up. Now that safety’s got to be plugged in on some special teams spots. The linebacker is down, Luke Reimer or Nick Henrich sooner or later is hopefully going to be up. He’s going to take linebacker reps but he has to get plugged into all of those special teams reps. That’s kind of the juggling act right now. Who can fill in and who can play special teams? If no one is hurt, who is the best player on special teams that week for what we’re doing?

“That’s kind of where we’re at so right now, there are certain guys where you want to get them some game reps because they’re going to be important. Jahkeem Green is one of them. He is going to play in four games and it’s coming quickly. I need to pick the games where it’s going to be the games where he fits best in what we’re doing because he’s got to get ready for next year and those game reps are important. You don’t get better playing football if you don’t play football.”

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