Keem Green had all kinds of buzz when he arrived in Lincoln during the second week of fall camp. The 6-foot-5 transfer from Highland Community College certainly looked different than the other guys Nebraska had on the defensive line.
But the buzz never materialized into anything on the field. Green redshirted, playing in three games and recording one tackle. Nebraska had a solid top six at defensive line and worked a variety of different guys in behind them throughout the season with Green falling into the latter category.
Green played nine snaps (including a kneel-down at the end of the game) against Ohio State, six snaps against Wisconsin and four snaps against Maryland. After watching all 19 of his plays, it’s not hard to see why Green wasn't in the mix more this past season.
Green made his first and only tackle on his third career snap. Green entered the game with Nebraska down 48-7 in the fourth quarter. Four-yard runs on his first two snaps set up third-and-2.
Green lined up as the right defensive end with an outside linebacker to his right.
Ohio State’s quarterback, Chris Chugunov, handed the ball off to running back Master Teague as Green engaged with the left guard.
Neither the guard nor Green managed to gain any ground as they slid towards the middle of the field.
Green managed to get off his block and stick his arm out as Teague ran by while Mohamed Barry grabbed on from the other side.
They weren’t able to drop him on the spot, however, as Teague fought forward to pick up 7 yards.
Green did a good job of getting off his block, but had he been able to push the guard back even a little bit he would have had a better chance of making the stop before the line to gain.
Ohio State picked up a couple more first downs on that drive before taking a knee to run out the clock.
Green got his first and only playing time in a game that was still somewhat competitive against Wisconsin, checking in for the first time late in the third quarter with Nebraska trailing 34-21.
A 7-yard run on first down set up second-and-3.
The left guard engaged Green after the snap, but it was only a chip block as Green got off it and the guard continued forward looking to block someone else. In the backfield, Jack Coan dropped back to hand the ball off to Jonathan Taylor.
With Green free of his chip block, there was nothing but turf between him and Taylor.
However, the burst just isn’t there for Green and he wasn’t able to close the ground between them at all as Taylor looked to run off right tackle.
JoJo Domann was there to make the play from his outside linebacker spot instead, but he only managed to take out Taylor’s legs from behind as the big back fell forward to pick up 4 yards and move the chains. Green, meanwhile, finally caught up and tripped over Domann.
Green switched over to left defensive end for two plays before subbing out.
He returned for two more plays in the fourth quarter, checking in at left defensive end with Nebraska still trailing 34-21 and just under eight minutes remaining.
He checked in on second-and-2 and Nebraska gave up a 6-yard run, setting up first and 10.
Green spent most of his snaps grappling with guards, but on this play he had to deal with the right tackle. On the snap, the two engaged at the line of scrimmage as Coan turned to hand the ball off to Nakia Watson.
As Watson approached the line of scrimmage with the ball tucked under his arm, Green had already been driven back a couple of yards.
As Watson crossed the line, Green had given up another yard so the run came his direction.
Garrett Nelson got past the tight end blocking him to make the tackle after a gain of 5, but notice where Green ended up.
The tackle drove him back a good 6 or 7 yards from where he lined up. That was Green’s last snap of the game.
Green checked into the Maryland game early in the fourth quarter with Nebraska leading 47-0, played four snaps at right defensive end then checked out for good. Luke Reimer stuffed a first-down run at the line of scrimmage, setting up second-and-10.
After the snap, Green engaged with the left guard then shoved him aside to plug the B gap.
Unfortunately, the handoff to running back Javon Leake was a fake as quarterback Josh Jackson kept the ball and threw a quick pass out to Noah Barnes on the perimeter.
Braxton Clark closed on Barnes as soon as he caught the ball and brought him down, limiting the play to 3 yards.
Green didn’t make the play, but it was still a good rep for him as he did his job and would have been in position to make a play had Jackson handed the ball off.
Nebraska only defended three pass plays with Green on the field, included the one directly above. Since Green played the run on that rep, he only got to pin his ears back and rush the passer twice all season. Both times he went with a bull rush and neither one was close to impacting the quarterback’s throw.
Green didn’t really demonstrate much of an ability to push offensive linemen back and gain ground in the run game either as he got moved around more often than he even held his ground. However, Green did show an impressive punch as he was able to get off blocks multiple times.
All the being said, it is worth remembering how behind Green was when he arrived. Defensive line coach Tony Tuioti said he weighed 330 pounds when he first set foot on campus. After briefly dipping below three bills, he’s back at a healthy 305 pounds and is not the same player he was a year ago.
“Night and day from when he first came in,” Tuioti said back on the first day of spring practice. “You have to remember, when he first came in it was 10 days after training camp started, so he was already behind the eight-ball. Being able to sit back and just learn from the [Davis] twins about how to play the position, understanding his fundamental technique, all of that’s been good for him.”
Green played all of his snaps at defensive end in 2019, but Tuioti said he is capable of playing both end and nose tackle along with Ty Robinson. However, he also listed off six players he’d feel comfortable putting into a game and Green wasn’t one of them. Missing out on spring ball could be a big thing for Green as Tuioti was hoping to find a least two more reliable linemen by the end of the 15 spring practices. Since Nebraska got two instead of 15, Green is going to once again have to make up for lost time once football starts up again. Even so, he’s in a much better place physically and mentally than when he first arrived.
“He’s got himself in shape,” Tuioti said. “I think mentally, he’s got more confident in what he’s supposed to do within the scheme of the defense and then he knows our expectation up front in terms of being able to run to the football and be physical at the point of attack. So he’s come a long way and I’m proud of that, and he has a long way to go still.”