For a fourth year, we’re counting down the 10 most intriguing Huskers. Earlier, I wrote about who would have earned spots 11-20 if the countdown was extended out and shared a look at the previous three groups of Huskers from 2018, ’19, and ’20.
The intent of this exercise is to highlight players who might have the largest impact on the upcoming season, one way or the other, with their play. It’s not a ranking of the best players on the team and it’s not even really a rundown of the most important players to accomplish X, Y, and Z. It’s as the name suggests: the most intriguing talents on the roster.
Things kicked off with Nick Henrich at No. 10 and Oliver Martin and No. 9. Then, No. 8 Quinton Newsome and No. 7 Gabe Ervin Jr. were added to the list. Last week, we added No. 6 Adrian Martinez and No. 5 Matt Sichterman to the group. Up next…
No. 4: Luke Reimer
There just continues to be a different way with which inside linebacker coach Barrett Ruud talks about Luke Reimer.
The third-year inside linebacker from right here in Lincoln has a nose for the football. After having played right away as a freshman walk-on, Reimer was a rotational spot starter in 2020. With Will Honas on the shelf for at least the start of the season and Collin Miller forced into early retirement, Reimer projects as a day one starter and a playmaking middle ‘backer who could prove to be one of the brightest up-and-coming defenders in the conference.
That might seem bold, but Ruud has been singing Reimer’s praise for two years now.
In 2019, the Lincoln native played in 10 games. “Who’s 28?” was asked frequently on the practice field. He made his way onto the field with pretty good play on kickoff coverage. On defense, he saw a total of 14 snaps. In just those 14, he had six tackles.
In 2020, Reimer was limited to six games by injury, but he still ended the year with almost 300 snaps played (second-most among the inside linebackers), 40 tackles, six havoc plays and two sacks.
Reimer did wear down a bit throughout the campaign though, which wasn’t really surprising or concerning. The year was somewhat of a grinder on everyone. If and when Honas returns to the field and Nebraska can go at least four-deep at inside ‘backer, everyone will be the better for it. Reimer is a high-energy player; being able to rotate more or mix and match his snaps to specific kinds of packages and situations could be beneficial for his production.
All in all, this is a player Nebraska loves.
“I think Luke can be as good as he absolutely wants to be,” Ruud said this spring. “He can potentially play football when he’s done here. He’s been really good. He did a great job in the weight room in the offseason, so he’s gotten bigger, he’s gotten faster.”
Impressive for a player Ruud has already called one of the most athletic on the entire team.
At 6-foot-1 and north of 220, Reimer is explosive. A 35-inch vertical in winter testing tied for the fifth-best mark on the team; a 1.59-second 10-yard split tied for the sixth-best. From the beginning, he looked like he’d be a multi-year starter with continued improvement.
“I think he’s gotten past the point that, ‘I’m a walk-on guy trying to earn my stripes,’ where now he’s proven that he’s a good football player,” Ruud said. “He could be a legit top-end inside linebacker in this conference.
“I think he’s got a confidence about him, and he’s not afraid to speak his mind. He’s confident. He knows what he’s doing, so if you produce, you’ve got a chance to be a leader.”
With good instincts and the kind of athleticism that helps make a coverage matchup not so one-sided, he will potentially form an interesting partnership with Chris Kolarevic on the interior to begin the year.
Kolarevic played both inside and outside linebacker for Northern Iowa, his previous home. Athleticism is a strength of his as well. When comparing these two to a guy like Miller (6-foot-3) or Henrich (6-4), they feel a tad bit undersized compared to what we used to think of as prototypical, run-stuffing off-ball linebackers. But that archetype has been fazing out as the game spaces out. Reimer actually fits the bill quite nicely when it comes to what NFL teams are looking for.
Last year, 247Sports looked into what the last 27 interior linebackers drafted in rounds 1-3 had in common: an average size of 6-foot-1.9, 216 pounds, an average 40 time of 4.61 and an average vertical of 35.1 inches.
Reimer ran a 4.52 40 in high school. He’s right on the average with his vertical and size already with multiple years left to work in Zach Duval’s weight room.
In today’s modern game, he’s a player with the exact kind of skillset to play in space. His ability to cover ground quickly was evident right away. With a little more polish, he’s got a chance to be special.
Still, there are things to clean up. Reimer’s first start last season against Northwestern had the good and bad. He fit wrong on an early run and it cost NU a touchdown. But this was a player who missed two full games and another half and finished fifth on the team in total tackles. He’s a playmaker incarnate. Let’s see what he looks like after an offseason dedicated more to skill development than scheme learning.
“When you first get here, you’re told you’re going to make mistakes; just fly around and be fast,” Reimer said. “But now, once you understand the defense, you can fly around and be fast in the right position.”
That’s the next step: schematically sound play. Reimer has the physical tools to compensate for a misstep, but that misstep could be the difference between a tackle after 2 yards gained and a tackle for loss 4 yards in the backfield because of his physical tools.
As a defense, Nebraska was 63rd nationally last year in havoc rate (tackles for loss, forced fumbles, passes defended). If you think the Blackshirts can jump into that top-35 or so stratosphere for overall defense, a good way to achieve that will be to up the havoc production.
That won’t all be on Nebraska’s inside linebackers, as those guys haven’t yet been the top creators in this scheme, but Reimer could maybe be a change of pace. He should have plenty of opportunity to make those kinds of plays.
“The dude works his tail off in practice,” said outside linebacker Garrett Nelson. “He does everything right. … I don’t want to say he’s a freak because he’s more than that. He works his tail off, he’s here every day, he is obviously talented, but that’s not how I’d describe him. He’s a hard worker.”
Trust Reimer is working to take that next step. If he can, Nebraska’s defense could have elite playmakers at each level of its defense.
“Our motto is day by day. You can’t really put much stock into the past, you just have to look at the day and just keep getting better every day,” he said this spring. “I’m not there yet, but I was closer today than I was two years ago when I first started.”
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.