Travis Fisher brought in four defensive backs in his 2019 recruiting class, yet only one of them earned enough playing time to avoid a redshirt season: Quinton Newsome.
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound corner from Suwanee, Georgia, played in 10 games as a true freshman. He was a special teams contributor in all 10 games and played on defense in four of them.
Newsome was on the field for 31 snaps and showed his versatility by lining up all over the formation. He played both boundary and field corner, lining up on both the right and left sides of the field. Nebraska also had him in the slot on a few snaps of its third-and-long dime defense.
Newsome did not record a single stat on either special teams or defense last season, though he had a few missed opportunities. Newsome is one of the players Fisher mentioned as an up-and-comer at the start of spring and the sophomore could push for more playing time in 2020.
What can he bring to the Nebraska defense? Let’s dive into the film to find out.
Newsome made his debut on defense in Nebraska’s 44-8 win against Northern Illinois in week three. His first snap was in dime but his last nine were on defense as an outside corner.
Newsome’s first opportunity to make a play came late in the fourth quarter. On second and 8, he lined up to the boundary side (the shorter side of the field) in tight coverage.
The receiver ran his route to the inside, but Newsome recognized that the quarterback handed the ball off to the running back Rahveon Valentine.
Newsome released the receiver and changed directions, heading back toward the ball.
Newsome tried to break down and square him up.
Valentine kept his momentum going towards the sideline, though, and Newsome had to make a diving attempt at the tackle. Valentine ran right through it and Reid Karel came over from his safety spot to make the tackle a yard short of the line to gain.
Newsome did a good job of reading the situation and putting himself in a position to make a play, but he seemed to misjudge Valentine’s speed or shiftiness. Welcome to college football, kid.
Teams did not test Newsome in coverage really at all, so it was hard to get a great feel for his ability in that area. He didn’t give up any catches nor did he record any interceptions or pass break-ups. However, even if he wasn’t targeted he still showed both promise and areas in which he can improve.
A few plays after his missed tackle, on first and 10, Newsome lined up in tight coverage again only this time to the field side.
It appears as if Newsome was attempting outside leverage, but he gave the receiver too much of an opening and the Husky took advantage. Notice Newsome’s fee and body positioning.
Newsome was beat off the line, but he did a good job of recovering quickly, flipping his hips to get back in the play.
Newsome probably wouldn’t have been in a position to make a play on the ball had the quarterback seen the play develop, but he probably could have made the tackle short of the sticks. Regardless, the Northern Illinois quarterback had pulled the ball down and taken off himself.
The play went for 3 yards.
The Huskers ended the drive – and the game – a few plays later. On fourth and 7, Northern Illinois lined up in a tight formation. Newsome was the boundary corner but didn’t have any receivers on his side of the field.
On the snap, Newsome dropped back into his coverage area while the quarterback scanned the field and the running back made his way out of the backfield.
It was a wheel route for the back, and based on the direction of the quarterback’s eyes, it was his first read. Newsome was there to cover it, though, and the quarterback saw it. So he took off to his left and got forced out after a 1-yard gain.
Newsome held up in coverage as the quarterback initially kept the play alive, running stride-for-stride with the back. Newsome read the situation well and executed his job to help force a turnover on downs.
Newsome only got two snaps the following week in Nebraska’s 42-38 win against Illinois, both in the Huskers’ dime defense. His first play came in the second quarter with Nebraska trailing 21-7. He checked in as the slot corner on the field side and gave his man a 6-yard cushion.
Newsome’s man ran his route straight up the hashmarks. In college football, defenders are allowed to make contact with receivers beyond 5 yards from the line of scrimmage so long as the ball isn’t in the air. On this play, Newsome held his ground and redirected the receiver towards the middle of the field.
Newsome stuck with his man as Illinois quarterback Brandon Peters scanned the right side of the field without finding any open receivers.
Peters ended up chucking the ball deep and Cam Taylor-Britt picked it off. It wasn’t an incredibly complex route for Newsome to defend, but once again he did his job.
Unfortunately, we’re wrapping this up with what might have been the biggest lowlight of his freshman season. He played nine snaps in Nebraska’s 48-7 loss to Ohio State, though one of those plays was Ohio State taking a knee at the end of the game.
Nebraska gave up 3 yards on third and 2, setting up a first and 10 near midfield. Newsome lined up as the right corner with the ball centered in the middle of the field. He gave his receiver a good 8-yard cushion.
On the snap, Newsome backpedaled a step before recognizing that the Buckeyes were running the ball. He reversed his momentum as the back took the handoff and started heading forward.
The receiver on the left side’s job on the play was to block Newsome…
And boy did he. Newsome didn’t make any kind of move to avoid the blocker, running right into him and getting spun around and washed out of the play, opening up a massive alley for the back to run through.
Newsome ended up with his facemask in the turf while the running back gained 36 yards before a Husker finally dragged him to the ground. Whether it was a matter of strength or experience or technique, it was a bad rep for Newsome.
Newsome played 10 more snaps as an outside corner in the base defense against Maryland but wasn’t involved in any of the action.
Nebraska has an established group of veterans in the secondary with Dicaprio Bootle, Cam Taylor-Britt, Marquel Dismuke and Deontai Williams, but Travis Fisher is looking to find some depth heading into the spring. With the experience he gained as a freshman and the ability he displayed, Newsome should be in the mix as a primary back-up corner who could see the field regularly in sub-packages, either inside or out on he edge.
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.