Heading into Nebraska’s game at Purdue in early December, the coaching staff planned to get redshirt freshman safety Myles Farmer on the field more. That never happened because Farmer injured himself during warmups and missed the rest of the season.
Barring any more freak injuries, that plan for an expanded role could go into effect this season, even with both senior starting safeties opting to return for an extra year of eligibility. What should Husker fans expect? Well, they got a sneak preview during the Northwestern game when a targeting penalty in the second half of the Wisconsin games knocked Deontai Williams for the first half of the following game.
Let’s take a closer look at Farmer’s first start as a Husker.
Farmer played 30 defensive snaps in the first half while Williams watched from the sideline. He managed to squeeze in two interceptions and two tackles during that time (plus a terrific tackle on special teams).
Farmer’s first tackle came on a fourth-down play on the Blackshirts’ first drive. With the ball near midfield and only needing a yard, the Wildcats decided to go for it. Farmer is off screen here as the deep safety on the left side.
The play is a hand-off for a runoff right tackle by Drake Anderson. Quinton Newsome, the corner on that side of the field, attacked the ball once he saw it was a run.
This next screen shot shows how thoroughly the Wildcats won at the line of scrimmage. Caleb Tannor got driven back a few yards and Casey Rogers also got knocked back, which means there weren’t any Huskers setting the edge. At this point, Anderson was getting the first down almost no matter what. Still, Newsome had a great shot of limiting the run to only a couple of yards.
Instead, this happened.
Luke Reimer missed a lunging tackle as well, leaving Farmer as the next line of defense.
Farmer made the tackle, dropping Anderson after a 12 yard gain that gave the Wildcats a new set of downs.
There’s nothing spectacular about this play, but Farmer was in position to cover for the mistakes of others and he did his job.
Anderson was already sort of on his way down to the turf on the first tackle as he sort of lost his footing as he was looking to make a move, but that wasn’t the case on his other defensive tackle.
On third and 3, Northwestern looked to attack the center of the Nebraska defense. The outside receiver ran an underneath route while the inside one ran a dig route.
The wideout sat down between the inside linebackers and the safety and Peyton Ramsey put it on him. However, Farmer saw where the ball was going and was already breaking on the target while the ball was still fl
As soon as the receiver grabbed the ball and pulled it down, Farmer was on him ready to lay the wood.
And lay the wood he did. Farmer hit him so hard that the receiver’s feet left the ground.
The play went for 13 yards, but Farmer got his money’s worth on the hit and showed what he’s capable of as a tackler.
Farmer’s first interception was more luck than a great play by him initially, but he was still in the right place at the right time and took advantage of it.
On second-and-10 at the Northwestern 26-yard line, Northwestern drew up a deep shot. The target lined up tight to the formation on the right side of the formation and ran a deep post route. Farmer is just off screen here when the play starts.
Marquel Dismuke picked up the receiver as he crossed the field but Ramsey has already decided to take the shot… which he under-threw and bounced it off the back of Dismuke’s helmet.
The ball bounced up in the air and Farmer ran under it, snatching it out of the air. His momentum carried him backwards several more yards but he turned around and brought it up the sideline.
The receiver Ramsey targeted had a chance to essentially make it a 0-yard return, but Farmer had other plans.
Farmer used a jump-cut to juke the receiver to the ground and continue forward.
He ran out of room after that as another receiver finally dragged him down.
The return ended up being 8 yards but it definitely showed Farmer was more comfortable with the ball in his hands than that wideout was playing defense. Farmer also showed great hands to secure the interception in the first place.
The second interception was all Farmer. On third-and-5 at the Northwestern 34, Northwestern lined up with two receivers to the short side of the field. Farmer lined up across from the inside receiver. The outside receiver ran a post while the inside man ran a quick dig route to the sticks.
Farmer was ready for the quick out and was right there as the receiver made his break. At this point, Ramsey has already decided he’s throwing this ball and Farmer can see that.
Farmer showed great closing speed to undercut the route and pick off the pass. Once again, Farmer made a hands catch, extending his arms and snatching the ball out from in front of the receiver and running forward up the sideline without breaking stride.
The negative here is that Farmer let the quarterback tackle him. The positive is that he lowered the shoulder and looked to make Ramsey pay for doing it.
Farmer returned the ball 37 yards to the 3-yard line and Dedrick Mills punched it in for the go-ahead touchdown on the next play.
It’s difficult to judge coverage without knowledge of the scheme or the all-22 tape, but there were a couple plays I saw where Farmer was trailing behind open receivers that Ramsey just missed. The first one was a bad throw and on the second one Farmer got some help in the way of a Nick Henrich quarterback hurry that forced the errant throw. And while Farmer did lower the boom on one of his tackles, he also completely whiffed on another tackle where Nebraska dialed up a safety blitz against the run and Farmer got there but couldn’t bring the ball-carrier down.
Every young player has room for improvement, however, and while farmer didn’t play a perfect game in his first start he showed a lot of things to be excited about, even if it was only one half of play. Expect to see Farmer making an impact on special teams once again, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Travis Fisher handles playing time in the secondary this season. We never got to see what that expanded role looked like last year, but Farmer should be healthy this season to provide Nebraska with some quality depth at safety.
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.