Nebraska cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt was a bit coy when asked for his personal goal for interceptions in 2021.
“It’s more than my football number,” he said.
Taylor-Britt wears No. 5. Did he think about changing to a greater number?
“I was thinking about it. I felt that question was going to come up, so I was thinking about it.”
But Taylor-Britt will still be No. 5 when he starts at cornerback for Nebraska in its season-opener at Illinois on Saturday. That would still be a pretty good number for a Husker to hit for interceptions.
Nebraska hasn’t had a player record five interceptions in a season since 2016. Safety Kieron Williams got there, helped by one in each of the first two games of the season, wins against Fresno State and Wyoming. The pick against the Cowboys, returned for a touchdown, broke open a one-score game in the third quarter as the Huskers intercepted future-NFL quarterback Josh Allen five times over the final 30 minutes in a 52-17 win.
Safety Matt O’Hanlon was the last Husker with more than five interceptions in a season, recording six in 2009. He had three in Nebraska’s 10-3 win over Oklahoma that year, a victory that opened the door for a Husker run to the Big 12 Championship Game.
Nebraska’s school record for interceptions in a season is 10, set by safety Josh Bullocks in 2003. The Huskers were +23 in turnovers that season, Frank Solich’s last at Nebraska, including 32 interceptions, or an average of nearly 2.5 per game.
A level of takeaways even close to that would be a welcome sight for the Huskers. While creating plenty of opportunities for takeaways, the Huskers have collected less than they’ve earned over the past three seasons based on national averages for fumbles recovered and interceptions as a function of passes defended, two numbers that remain stable across college football year after year. Nebraska had 20 takeaways in 2018 (57th nationally), 21 in 2019 (34th) and seven over the shortened season in 2020 (103rd).
Taylor-Britt and the rest of the Blackshirts have an eye on changing that in 2021.
“I can say Coach [Scott] Frost harps on turnovers for the defense and not having turnovers on offense,” Taylor-Britt said. “So I believe he embedded it into our heads even before fall camp. We were talking about it right after the season. But he just stays on us about getting the ball back for the offense. And who wouldn’t want to get an interception to help the team out.”
Taylor-Britt tied for the team lead in interceptions the past two seasons with two in 2020 and three in 2019. He is, relatively speaking, a bit of an expert in the category.
“I tell the guys, it’s a bit of joke, but when they drop a pick I say ‘You haven’t been to Cam class,’ because I try and lead the group in interceptions. So when they drop a pick I am like, ‘Hey you have not been to class lately. You have been skipping.’ So I just try and stay on guys by getting turnovers”
A second-team All-Big Ten selection in 2020, Taylor-Britt was viewed as an NFL prospect after last season, his third on campus. But he told Hail Varsity this summer that he never really considered leaving early.
“We just wanted to hold it off and give everybody some jitters,” he said.
Taylor-Britt, a captain in 2021, had future interceptions to worry about. More than five.
It’s been a minute since that happened at Nebraska.
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.