Coaches love Omar Brown. And if a video shared on Twitter didn’t validate their feelings, his play this spring has.
He was a transfer from Northern Iowa last season and, for whatever reason, didn’t break through. Brown played in every game last year, largely on special teams, and finished with three tackles. Back issues kept him from becoming a FCS-to-FBS breakout. When the new coaching staff arrived to wipe the slate clean for everyone, Brown committed to becoming a major part of Nebraska. He set out to carve his name into that clean slate through winter workouts.
One of those workouts, late in the team competitions stage, involved carrying teammates. Brown’s group started matching up. But who was going to carry 6-foot-10, 320-pound lineman Teddy Prochazka? No one stepped forward until Brown volunteered.
“I ain’t gonna lie, me and Teddy close but that just made us closer,” he said. “We got class together and everything.”
The 6-foot-1, sub-200 pound defensive back loaded the Elkhorn South standout on his shoulders. Brown, back issues and all, didn’t hesitate. They got about halfway until Brown crumbled. They had to start over. Brown then hauled Prochazka the 52.2 yards across the practice field. Carrying the lineman didn’t re-aggrevate any lingering issues. He felt good afterwards. Well, he was pretty tired.
“That’s a big-ass dude,” he laughed.
Team Commitment Week: Day 2 pic.twitter.com/MIyR639myz
— Nebraska Football (@HuskerFBNation) March 8, 2023
That commitment to teammates and team make him stand out to coaches. Both head coach Matt Rhule and defensive coordinator Tony White mentioned Brown in previous comments this spring for their play during practice. White’s defense includes an emphasis on turnovers, something Nebraska struggled with last season (16 put the Huskers in the lower half of FBS). Earlier this week, Brown missed his assignment and busted his coverage. He said he knew it right when it happened. But he stayed with the play, kept his eyes on the scrambling quarterback and made a football play.
“Me being a football player, I know when stuff’s coming,” Brown said of his interception. “I just played football off the ball, really.”
He’s taken reps at different positions in the defense, including rover. That’s the linebacker-safety hybrid in White’s defense that can drop into coverage or load into the box. It will still take time and repetitions for players to get used to White’s new system, Brown said. So far he enjoys it and the aggressive freedom that it provides. He also enjoys working with secondary coach Evan Cooper. Cooper provides high energy and an attention to detail that helps Brown improve and keep his motor high. They also spend hours studying film from Rhule’s old teams. Brown watches the entire defense in those sessions, not a specific player or position.
Brown finds himself in the mix among a crowded and competitive secondary room. Before the 2023 season begins, Nebraska has to meet the 85-scholarship limit. There’s a chance a few of those departures come from the secondary. While Rhule and his coaching staff don’t evaluate that far or craft a depth chart during the spring season, they do like competition. And there’s little motivation better than a spot high on that chart.
“I think it makes the team better overall,” Brown said. “It just brings out who the dog is on the field. All the competition stuff they’ve implemented, I love it. Because who wants it more, it shows who wants it. So I love all the competition stuff they’ve given us.”
He can’t control where coaches put him on any potential depth chart. But he can show what he brings to the team. He’s still not sure what he did or didn’t do last season to not warrant more time on defense. While all that doesn’t matter since the slate’s wiped clean, Brown is carrying a similar mentality into this spring: control what he can control.
“Last year there was a lot of stuff going on,” Brown said. “All I could do, as a player, was go hard in practice and if they do put me in those positions I’ve got to be ready for it.
“Obviously, I didn’t like it. But I wasn’t saying ‘Naw’ and denying the coaching. I’ve got to do what I can do, I can only control what I can control. So that’s what it was.”