Photo Credit: Erin Sorensen

Nebraska’s D-Line May Lack Experience, but Not Strength, Size

August 26, 2020

In case you missed it, Nebraska defensive line coach Tony Tuioti joined Husker Sports Nightly on Thursday to give a preview of his room.

A major part of Tuioti’s time was spent talking about the size of the defensive linemen, which fans have seen on display courtesy of head strength and conditioning coach Zach Duval. Some of the gains he mentioned were those of redshirt freshman Ty Robinson and junior college transfer Jordon Riley. Robinson, who stands 6-foot-6, is now up to 325 or 330 pounds. Riley is around 330 or 335, which Tuioti said is about 30 pounds heavier since winter. He may have added the most muscle of anyone on the team at this point.

Then there’s true freshman Nash Hutmacher.

“I don’t know if we have enough weights here in the weight room,” Tuioti jokes.

Hutmacher is a veteran powerlifter and champion wrestler—appropriately nicknamed “Polar Bear”—so it doesn’t come as a surprise that he’s outworking most in the weight room.

“I think by the time Nash leaves here as a senior he’s probably going to be the strongest guy we’ve ever had here,” Tuioti said. “He’s great.”

Size has been a major talking point for Nebraska for some time now. A number of people have pointed to Coach Scott Frost’s comments following Nebraska’s loss to Iowa in 2018.

“What disturbs me right now is that Iowa is a bigger, stronger football team,” Frost said at the time. “I never thought I’d see or hear that or say that about a Nebraska football team. That we can fix. We can get bigger, we can get stronger.”

It sounds like that’s what Nebraska has spent the offseason working on more than ever. The depth is there, too. While Ben Stille is the lone senior on the defensive line—having played in 33 career games and starting in 13—he’s not alone. Junior Damion Daniels has played in 24 and started in one, while junior Deontre Thomas has played in 26. It may not seem like much, especially after losing all three defensive line starters to the NFL, but Tuioti is confident that 10 of Nebraska’s 13 scholarship linemen can earn game snaps during the 2020 season.

“You’re looking at the roster from last year to this year, we’re longer and we’re bigger than we were last year,” Tuioti said. “These guys are pretty athletic for their size. They just don’t have the game experience.”

Tuioti is eager for guys like junior Keem Green, sophomores Casey Rogers and Tate Wildeman, true freshman Marquis Black, redshirt freshman Mosai Newsom, as well as sophomore Colton Feist and junior Ben Lingenfelter, both walk-ons. Listen to Tuioti talk and you’ll hear the same thing over and over. Bigger. Faster. Stronger. The experience might be low, but the potential is high.

“I told a lot of the guys when we were coming into spring ball that everybody’s up,” Tuioti said. “Everybody has a chance to showcase what they’ve got and how they can help our team. We’re going to need each and everybody to contribute in some way.”

And that potential clearly is what excited Tuioti about his group. The work in the weight room certainly doesn’t hurt either.

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