Stille is still in scarlet.
Ben Stille, a senior defensive end and a regular starter at Nebraska since 2018, announced Friday that he intends to return to Nebraska for the 2021 season and use the extra year of eligibility afforded to seniors by the NCAA.
— Ben Stille (@b_stille_) January 15, 2021
After replacing its entire defensive line heading into 2020, Nebraska now returns its entire line heading into 2021. That’s huge news for a defense that made significant improvement in stopping the run this past year. Stille was a key part of that.
While there are up-and-coming defensive linemen already in the program, Stille’s leadership and experience are no doubt valuable.
He played as an outside linebacker/defensive end in 2017, his first year as a full-time contributor after redshirting as a freshman in 2016. He appeared in nine games and earned a start against a ranked Wisconsin team.
Despite moving back and forth between the two positions, Stille led Nebraska with 10 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. He became the first freshman to lead the Huskers in TFLs since the stats began being tracked in 1968 and the first freshman to lead Nebraska in sacks since the stat became official in 1981.
As a sophomore in 2018, Scott Frost and defensive coordinator Erik Chinander’s first year in Lincoln, Still settled at defensive end and started in 11 of his 12 appearances. In 2019, he was a de facto fourth starter on a three-man front, rotating in and still managing a career-high 31 tackles with eight tackles for loss and three sacks.
This past season, he started all eight games at defensive end, finishing with 27 tackles, three tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks.
“I would say not my first year with this staff but my second year in the staff is when I really began to get a lot more confident in my ability, just being able to execute the defense,” Stille said in-season. “Size-wise, too, I was trying to put on a ton of weight from that redshirt freshman to redshirt sophomore year. I was able to put it on, but it was tough to hang on to throughout the season. So I really needed two offseasons to be able to get it on and hold it on like I’ve been able to these last couple of years.”
Though he’s never been named a team captain, Stille has acted like one. This year marked his fourth selection as a member of the Academic All-Big Ten team. He’s working toward a master’s degree in academic administration, and he held film study sessions during fall camp with younger linemen like Ty Robinson and Casey Rogers, two guys who played significant snaps for Nebraska this year and played well.
“He works really hard at his craft, studies a lot of film, helps the younger guys,” Chinander said. “He’s a great kid to have on the team and I just think that he’s done a really great job of developing himself, his body, his skill. Everything you wanted him to do over the past few years.”
Chinander tried to put the hard sell on Stille before a Senior Day game against Minnesota on Dec. 12.
“I really, truly believe that his best football has been played in the last few games and he’s going to continue to get better,” the defensive coordinator said. “I hope we get him back for another year because I think he’s on the verge of having a big-time breakout here.”
Seems as if that pitch worked.
Though the Huskers will lose reserve lineman Keem Green to the transfer portal this offseason, Stille now joins outside linebacker JoJo Domann, safeties Deontai Williams and Marquel Dismuke, and cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt as starters from a year ago committed to another year in Lincoln. (Taylor-Britt isn’t a senior, though he had NFL opportunities if he wanted to declare.)