Football doesn’t return until August. That sucks. So let’s refuse to stop football talk. Let’s keep the anticipation flowing.
We're continuing our look at ten players that might become the most interesting men in the Huskers’ locker room.
No. 9 — Sophomore defensive back Dicaprio Bootle
We’ve opened with back-to-back defensive players. (For those wondering, there will be five from each side of the ball.) Maybe more so than the offense, the defense isn’t short on intriguing talent if only because of what happened last season. And there isn’t one other position group on the 2018 Nebraska football team that feels like more of a mystery than the Huskers' secondary.
Bootle, getting his first action as a redshirt freshman last season, appeared in every game. He started against Ohio State on Oct. 14 at safety but he was primarily a corner, ending the 2017 campaign with 15 tackles (11 of them unassisted) and a single tackle for loss. None of the corners had an interception. (I keep writing that line and it never gets any better to look at.) This offseason Bootle played a little of everything — corner, nickel, safety — as was the norm with new defensive back coach and cross-training-aficionado Travis Fisher.
Bootle didn’t play the big one, though; he was sidelined with an illness for the April 21 Red-White Game.
Dial up the mystery a little more.
There’s no hiding from it, Nebraska’s depth at the cornerback position is not what you want. Scott Frost and the rest of the new coaching staff did a nice job of replenishing some spots on the roster with the 2018 recruiting class — Cam Taylor and Braxton Clark are two new guys coming for the fall but they will be playing catch-up — but outside of Bootle, the Huskers have three scholarship corners that have in-game experience heading into the season. One of them is a junior with four career tackles.
Dial up the intrigue a little more.
Last season Bootle, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound product of Miami, showed off a little bit of a bulldog mentality. Every member of the 2017 defense struggled to tackle, Bootle was not an exception, but he was one of the more consistent guys in that regard. He’s not afraid to hit guys in space and he does a pretty good job of wrapping up rather than just lowering a shoulder and praying the guy falls down.
The Ohio State hit comes to mind.
This Arkansas State hit is another.
And this Oregon hit.
Is there room to grow? Sure. Bootle needs to get better in coverage and every single corner needs to work on watching receiver eyes, turning heads and locating the football when it's in the air. Still, from what we've seen Bootle might be the top dawg at corner.
He’s a violent tackler. That’s part of what makes him intriguing in an aggressive, attacking defensive scheme. His Twitter handle is "flights delayed" for crying out loud. Let him seek. Let him destroy.
Bootle’s not the tallest and he’s not the longest; he’s probably not going to work if you put him 10 yards off the receiver and ask him to play soft coverage. It would put too much
strain pressure on the rest of the secondary. Where he might work is in press coverage where he can get up in the receiver’s face at the line of scrimmage and use his physicality to his advantage.
That’s something this defensive staff will enable. All spring long, defensive coordinator Erik Chinander stressed the importance of getting to the quarterback and creating turnovers. He said he needs the football and he wants a defense that will either go get it or put the guy that has it on his butt. He wants guys flying to the football, unafraid to miss a tackle, going 100 miles an hour. “To and through the ball-carrier,” he says.
From what we have on tape, that feels like Bootle.
To his credit, Chinander singled out Bootle a handful of times during the spring when talking about guys playing well. Fisher said Bootle has been near the top of his production chart for most of the spring. It doesn’t help those in the media who are evaluating the secondary that he didn’t play in the spring game, we didn’t get to see any kind of growth that has supposedly been made, but Bootle may very well end up being one of the top two corners once the season begins. Color me intrigued.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.