Nebraska’s secondary will have a new look to it when the Huskers open the 2022 season against Big Ten foe Northwestern in Dublin, Ireland, next August.
Gone is Cam Taylor-Britt, an ultra-athletic corner and 2021 team captain who earned second-team All-Big Ten honors. The Blackshirt recorded a career-best 51 tackles to go along with three tackles for loss, one sack and, maybe most importantly, a career-high 11 pass breakups.
While the loss of Taylor-Britt hurts the secondary, Nebraska’s corner position has the benefit of getting back Quinton Newsome, who enjoyed a solid first season as a starter opposite Taylor-Britt. Newsome was tested early in the season by opposing offenses, which seemed to run at the Huskers’ new guy in the lineup. But Newsome responded well to being picked on and showed he’s an able and willing tackler at 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds. Newsome, a Suwanee, Georgia, native, finished fifth on the team in tackles with 57.
While Newsome steps into a larger role in 2022 and will serve as a leader to whoever emerges opposite of him, Nebraska’s safety position will be breaking in two new starters—sort of.
Myles Farmer filled in for injured starter Deontai Williams and started the final four games following what turned out to be a season-ending injury to Williams at Minnesota. Farmer, a third-year safety, played well next to Marquel Dismuke and gained much-needed game reps. Farmer’s seven-tackle, one-interception outing against Ohio State stood out. He’ll go into next season as the favorite to win a starting safety job.
With Dismuke moving on from the program after his sixth year, the question of who wins the other safety job is up in the air. Nebraska’s depth there is looking thin, with the options being Noa Pola-Gates, Isaac Gifford, Javin Wright and walk-on Mason Nieman of Waverly, Nebraska. Since defensive backs coach Travis Fisher likes to cross-train his players, it’s possible that the more traditional corners on the roster could get a look at safety, too.
Gifford seems to be the top pick to take over Nebraska’s hybrid nickel position that JoJo Domann played so well. Wright, an intriguing player at 6-4, 210 pounds, was in that discussion as well, but his season was cut short due to a second discovered blood clot that needed surgery. His availability is unknown. Freshman Marques Buford Jr. could also be an option—he played in every game this season as a special teams maven.
Pola-Gates was a consensus four-star prospect according to the 247Sports Composite, but he’s been patiently waiting for his opportunity and lacks playing experience. The 2022 season will be an important one for the 6-foot, 180-pound Arizona native, who held offers from Alabama and Penn State among others out of high school.
In a win-now-and-early 2022 season for head coach Scott Frost, could the Huskers look for more experienced options at safety? The transfer portal is full of those candidates. Here are four names to keep an eye on who, if given the opportunity, could make an immediate impact in Lincoln.
M.J. Griffin, Temple
Griffin was just a three-star prospect out of Ypsilanti, Michigan, and signed with Temple over a host of Group of Five schools, but he also owned offers from Power Five schools like Kentucky, Louisville, Indiana and Iowa State, according to 247Sports.
Griffin has great size at 6-1 and 200 pounds. He racked up 89 tackles and five passes defended while playing three seasons for the Owls. This past season was Griffin’s best as he had 66 tackles, including 47 solo stops.
Once Griffin put his name in the transfer portal, he was offered by Louisville, Kansas, Georgia Tech and Nebraska. He recently came off a visit with the Jayhawks.
— MJ Griffin (@MJGRIFFIN2019) December 6, 2021
If Nebraska is looking for another option at safety, Griffin is the kind of aggressive playmaker who could make a defensive backfield better and create competition at practice. Here’s just one example of what the attacking Griffin brings:
Gurvan Hall Jr., Miami
Playing experience is valuable, and Gurvan Hall Jr. has plenty of it. In four seasons at the “U”, Hall had 148 tackles and six passes defended. The 6-foot, 192-pounder from West Palm Beach, Florida, has steadily seen his production tail off from earlier in his career, and now he’s looking for a change of scenery.
After a 2018 season where he notched only eight tackles, Hall burst onto the scene at Miami in 2019 with 66 tackles, two sacks and one interception. That production dropped off in 2020 when he had 43 tackles, then this past season he finished with 31.
Hall has plenty of Power Five playing time under his belt, which defensive coordinators all over the country will want in their backfield. Should Nebraska defensive coordinator Erik Chinander take a swing?
Deon Jones, Boston College via Maryland
Deon Jones has battled injuries during a career that started at Maryland and transitioned to Boston College. But everywhere he’s been, he’s been a contributor.
Jones, a 6-foot, 200-pounder from Oxon Hill, Maryland, is a former four-star prospect according to 247Sports and spent the 2018 and 2019 seasons where he signed out of high school, Maryland. While playing for the Terps, Jones had 51 tackles. He decided to transfer to Boston College, where he’s been since. He started six games for the Eagles in 2020 and racked up 42 tackles with one forced fumble—his career-best 11 tackles came against Notre Dame, which was ranked No. 2 in the nation at the time.
Jones’ 2020 season ended with an injury in the season finale against Virginia. He only lasted two games this season before an injury kept him off the field for the rest of the year. Now his name is in the portal and he’s looking for a fresh start.
If healthy, Jones could add great experience and a sure tackler next to the projected starter, Farmer, in Nebraska’s backfield.
Joseph Charleston, Clemson
Many schools will be after Joseph Charleston, a former four-star prospect according to 247Sports. But if Nebraska could land the talented former Clemson Tiger, it’d be a huge get.
Charleston, a 6-foot, 200-pounder from Milton, Georgia, had 62 tackles in three seasons with Clemson. In 2020, he recorded a career-best 44 tackles with two passes defended. He didn’t lack offers coming out of high school in 2019—Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State wanted him—and that’ll likely happen again now that he’s back on the market.
Can the Huskers get in on Charleston? It may be a stretch, but it’s worth trying.