Just in terms of scholarship guys, Nebraska has added 28 new faces to the locker room for 2018. The more-tenured Huskers should probably get a pass if they don’t know everyone quite yet.
“We brought in so many guys this offseason it’s hard to think about specific guys,” senior defensive tackle Mick Stoltenberg said last week when asked about standout newcomers.
The three Husker representatives at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago were all seniors. In typical fashion, those seniors were peppered with questions about the new kids on the block. Both Stoltenberg and guard Jerald Foster talked about a feeling of responsibility in their final seasons to get the young guys right and leave the program in a good place, and those teachings are already being handed out on a pretty regular basis.
But there have also been some guys who have needed no adjustment periods and no time to get acclimated, guys that have come in and balled out from the jump.
Stanley Morgan Jr. talked about junior college transfer Mike Williams. They’ve had the Twitter-famous weight room vertical battles, trying to top each other’s high jump, and Williams looked pretty good in the spring. Asked about sophomore Tyjon Lindsey and freshman Jaevon McQuitty possibly being slept on heading into the season, Morgan threw in Williams’ name for good measure.
Pretty much falls in line with the praise Williams got from offensive coordinator Troy Williams almost every week during the spring.
Morgan also mentioned a couple new defensive backs.
“I like Cam [Taylor] right now,” he said. “You’ve got CJ [Smith]. You’ve got all those guys. These young guys are nice, this young class is really moving the stadium right now.”
Specifically on Taylor, Morgan said the two have matched up on one another in practices. The thing that catches the vet’s eye is the youngsters’ willingness to take coaching.
“He’s a learner,” Morgan said. “He’s eager to learn and I like that.”
Morgan mentioned freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez, too, saying Martinez is doing things both on and off the field that make seniors like Morgan proud. The way Martinez is leading and the way he’s working, “you’ve got to be proud to see something like that as a senior,” Morgan said.
Another name dropped was the recent Utah graduate transfer Vaha Vainuku. Stoltenberg said it feels like Vainuku has been a part of the team for more than just the month-plus he’s been in Lincoln.
“It’s great having Vaha here,” Stoltenberg said. “Someone that can help us contribute on Saturdays.”
There was one guy named by everyone, though: Will Jackson. The Mesa (Ariz.) Community College defensive back was a unanimous pick for “standout newcomer.” In one year at Mesa, Jackson had four interceptions, three pass break-ups, a forced fumble and a tackle for loss. He comes to Lincoln with two seasons of immediate eligibility and he might not be a guy that just adds depth.
“I would say one of the young guys that’s impressed me is Will Jackson, just off of his work ethic,” Foster said. “I enjoy him being out there and what he brings to the table in the sense of his work ethic.”
Stoltenberg said Jackson gives off the same vibe as Vainuku: “He already feels like just one of the guys that has been here.”
Jackson was in Lincoln during both Friday Night Lights camps earlier in the summer, helping out with drills and hanging out with teammates. From a distance, he (and Taylor for that matter) didn’t feel like new additions to the team. The way he interacted with longtime players and the confidence with which he handled himself felt like that of a guy who had been around awhile.
He’s also at a position that could yield immediate playing time. Stoltenberg called him a “super-competitive guy” and indications are that he’s pushing other corners in defensive back coach Travis Fisher’s room.
From a measurable standpoint, Jackson is listed at 6-foot-3 (same as Lamar Jackson) and 200 pounds. He’s got long arms and experience. If the coaching staff feels the same way about Jackson’s work ethic as his teammates do, he might be a guy to keep an eye on when fall camp gets underway on Thursday, Aug. 2.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.