The Nebraska Cornhuskers take the field during their game against the Illinois to an empty stadium during the pandemic
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Nebraska Film Study: Inside Linebacker Garrett Snodgrass

May 30, 2021

Summer has finally arrived, which means the college football season is only a few short months away.

Unfortunately, the Huskers didn’t make it out of the spring unscathed as Will Honas went down with an injury during the final pre-spring game practice. Suddenly, a position of strength — inside linebacker — became one with a question mark on it.

Even without Honas, the Huskers look to be in good shape with the likes of Luke Reimer, Northern Iowa grad transfer Chris Kolarevic and Omaha Burke product Nick Henrich. However, you can never have too much depth, and Reimer and Henrich weren’t the online inside ‘backers Nebraska landed in its 2019 recruiting class. York grad Garrett Snodgrass was part of that class as well.

Snodgrass isn’t often mentioned when discussing the inside linebacker position, but he probably should be. Last season, Snodgrass was the next man up, and he could be again in 2021.

Snodgrass redshirted in 2019, earning defensive scout team MVP honors while appearing in three games, all on special teams. He grew into a regular special teams contributor this past season, appearing in all 12 games.

Snodgrass also got the chance to play on defense in two games in 2020. In our first installment of 2021 film studies, we’re taking a closer look at Snodgrass’ defensive snaps to see what he might be able to contribute if he hears his number called again this season.

Snodgrass made his defensive debut in the season-opener at Ohio State, logging 10 snaps.

He showed a bit of youthful anxiousness on his first play. He lined up to the boundary side and Ohio State showed a run to the right.

Both Collin Miller and Snodgrass bit hard on the threat of a run to the right, and Snodgrass’ over-pursuit opened up the cut-back lane, which the running back took advantage of.

Snodgrass recognized his mistake, but the left guard had climbed to the second level and latched onto Snodgrass, leaving the running back one-on-one with a defensive lineman in now-former Husker Keem Green.

The guard knocked Snodgrass back a good 6 yards as the running back cut back across the field to avoid Green.

Safety Marquel Dismuke came forward and made the tackle, but not before the back had picked up 11 yards to move the chains.

Snodgrass settled in from there. He made his first tackle on defense on the following drive. Ohio State started at the Nebraska 40-yard line.

Ohio State won handily at the line of scrimmage, knocking back Nebraska’s defensive linemen and opening up a hole for the back. Snodgrass inserted him into the fray, engaging with the left tackle.

As the back entered the hole, Snodgrass managed to get off the left tackle’s block.

After getting off the block, Snodgrass dove at the back and tripped him up while Myles Farmer finished it off for the assisted tackle.

Snodgrass’ next opportunity didn’t come until week five at home against Illinois, and although the score was again lopsided, it wasn’t simply a case of garbage time snaps. Injuries to Miller (the one that proved to be career-ending) and then Reimer, his initial replacement, had Erik Chinander going even deeper into his depth chart at inside linebacker.

Snodgrass played seven snaps to close out the game, sharing the field with Honas. On his first play, he showed discipline to handle his responsibility and then rally to the ball as Honas evaded an offensive lineman, got into the backfield and tripped up the running back. Snodgrass was there to clean it up for the assisted tackle.

On the second play of the drive, Snodgrass had an even bigger impact on the play.

Snodgrass slowly approached the line, covering his gap and holding his ground while keeping his eyes in the backfield as the quarterback handed the ball off to the running back.

As soon as Snodgrass read which hole the running back was going to take, he shot the gap.

Snodgrass met the back in the hole, and with a little help from Casey Rogers limited the gain to 2 yards.

The following play showed off Snodgrass’s resiliency and motor. Ohio State ran the ball again, slanting the blocking to the right as the inside ‘backers followed.

The left guard reached the second level and got into Snodgrass’ legs, taking him to the ground as the running back took the handoff and looked to the run through the gap Snodgrass was supposed to be filling.

As the back crossed the line of scrimmage, Snodgrass was already hopping right back up to get back in the play.

As soon as Snodgrass regained his feet he hit the ball carrier and drove him back until Honas got there to finish it off.

Snodgrass’ quick recovery allowed the Huskers to limit the gain to 4 yards, setting up a third-and-4, and the defense got off the field on the next play.

The final play we’ll cover here showed a little bit of good and a little bit of bad. On the next drive, Nebraska held Illinois to 3 yards on first down, setting up a second-and-7.

Illinois left Snodgrass unblocked on the play and he slowly approached the line of scrimmage as the back took the handoff and ran it right up the middle.

Snodgrass met the back about a yard-and-a-half past the line of scrimmage.

Green and another Husker joined in on the tackle, but the back kept his legs churning and fell forward through Snodgrass for an extra couple of yards, making it again of 4.

Snodgrass did a good job of putting himself in position to make a play, but he wasn’t quite strong enough or wasn’t able to play with enough aggressiveness or force to make it a great play. That’s one big area Snodgrass needed to work on this offseason: he has to get stronger. He’s listed at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, and while offensive linemen will always have a size advantage on linebackers, Snodgrass got knocked back by blockers a little more often than one would like to see. Hopefully he put on a few more pounds of muscle during winter conditioning to allow him to hold his ground a bit better in the future.

Strength concerns aside, after that first play Snodgrass did a good job of putting himself in the right position to do his job (at least to my untrained, uniformed eye). He showed off a good feel for the game in his limited snaps, good discipline and good vision. Nebraska also had him split out covering the slot receiver at times (though the other team never passed when he was on the field), indicating the coaches have at least some trust in his ability to defend in space.

Snodgrass still has an uphill battle to playing time on defense this season with Reimer, Kolarevic and possibly Henrich (depending on which position the coaches want him to play) all likely ahead of him, but if Barrett Ruud needs to go a bit deeper on the bench for whatever reason this season, Snodgrass showed enough to be excited about his future as a special teams ace and potential defensive contributor as well.

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