Sophomore wideout Wan’Dale Robinson described Nebraska as a place he knew he could grow at. “This is a place I knew I could become the best version of myself,” he wrote, adding the decision to commit to Nebraska instead of Kentucky was the best decision he’s made.
Robinson gets the headlines. He’ll likely always get the headlines at Nebraska; he’s one of the elite players not just at the university but in the Big Ten conference. The other Husker who shared his “Why Nebraska?” message was junior corner Cam Taylor-Britt.
“‘There’s no place like Nebraska’ was a phrase I frequently heard during the recruiting process,” he said. “From the first day I stepped on campus for my official visit I became a believer. The fans, facilities and football staff are what makes Nebraska a great place to go to school, and it gives me pride to play here.”
There’s obviously strategy at play here. The two Huskers didn’t just decide on their own they wanted to gush about the university with matching graphics, this is a recruiting tool. Peer recruiting is and will continue to be the best kind of recruiting. Hearing something from a friend walking the exact same path as you hits a little differently than hearing that same something from a coach.
And Taylor-Britt is one of the best peer recruiters the Huskers have, in any sport. This feels like a pretty safe limb to climb out on. It makes sense to use him in promotional media.
The Alabama native should probably be getting more attention for his on-field contributions than he is, though.
What could have been if Nebraska had its full allotment of spring practices? Specifically for a utility player in each of his first two seasons, what kind of ladder would Taylor-Britt have started climbing?
If Wan’Dale Robinson is an essential piece of Nebraska’s offensive puzzle going forward for reasons like field awareness, positional flexibility, and awe-inducing athleticism, shouldn’t Taylor-Britt be the same thing for the Blackshirts’ puzzle because of the same set of skills?
Lamar Jackson is off to the NFL, and with that departure there’s a giant hole in the secondary. Taylor-Britt played a little here, a little there in 2019 mostly out of necessity; when Deontai Williams was lost at safety Taylor-Britt filled in and when Nebraska needed him at nickel he filled in and when Nebraska needed him back out at corner he stepped up.
Whether it’s the fact he plays on defense and this is an offensive-minded team, both in its identity and in its coverage, or that he’s been around now for a few years without really being able to nail down one specific position as his own, Taylor-Britt feels like he’s a little undervalued right now.
His floating is what makes him so valuable on the field.
As a sophomore playing the majority of his snaps in a spot the coaching staff felt wasn’t his best (seven starts at safety, three at corner), Taylor-Britt was nothing if not a playmaker. He posted 45 tackles, four tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, three picks, two pass breakups and 1.5 sacks. His four forced fumbles ranked third nationally and tied for the most by a Husker since 1999.
“I think he’s a really, really, really good corner, and really good corners, when you’ve got to put them at safety, that’s not a good deal,” defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said. “Because corners are too valuable. Depending on what you’re doing with that nickel job, a slot corner can be just as valuable as an island corner.
“It’s not like he’s not valuable wherever he’s at.”
Some combination of Quinton Newsome, Braxton Clark, and Myles Farmer could likely see significant playing time in the secondary this upcoming season. Maybe they all do. Farmer is loved by the staff, so a role for him seems likely, but maybe one of those first two names makes a charge as the Jackson replacement at the other cornerback spot.
With Williams back healthy and Marquel Dismuke holding down the other spot, there isn’t really a clear-cut safety role for Taylor-Britt.
Maybe a rover it is once again.
“Since I was a freshman, it doesn't matter where you put me,” he said. “Really, I could speak for the rest of the guys, it doesn't matter where you put them. I think we all are getting the whole playbook and every position to where we can just rotate around.”
The main focus is just getting on the field and making plays.
Taylor-Britt has never been one to mince words. I’ve always appreciated that about him. He says what needs to be said, when it needs to be said, and he spares no feelings. If he’s messing up, he’s pointing the finger at himself. That maturity endeared him to position coach Travis Fisher and the rest of the coaching staff from the moment he stepped on campus.
“Everybody has their own journey,” Dicaprio Bootle said of how a player grows in a system. “Some guys might come in and coaches feel like they're a knucklehead. Another guy might come in and they feel like he does everything right and that one day he'll be a leader.
“It's all about being depended on by your coaches and teammates and just being a good person and getting better everyday. People start to take notice of that. You start getting more reps on the field, then guys start turning to you off the field as well when you're accountable off the field.”
Taylor-Britt is the latter. With guys like Ben Stille, Collin Miller and Bootle entering senior seasons, Taylor-Britt probably isn’t heading for a captain role. He’ll still be a voice others shut up and listen to.
That’s certainly worth something. It was worth something to Robinson. Part of his “Why Nebraska” story has to do with Taylor-Britt, his player host on a visit to Lincoln.
I suspect, though, there is coming a day in the not too distant future where the defensive guy is getting the same attention for his on-field play as the offensive guy. Fisher has stuffed his DB room so full it’s oozing high-end talent, but don’t forget about that guy who used to play quarterback.
Noise endeared him to the Husker fanbase, and he might just make some more of it this upcoming season.