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The Huskers Aren't the Same Defense Erik Chinander Heard About
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

The Snap Count: Position Shifts and New Faces

November 04, 2017

The Snap Count is back to get you ready for what you might see against Northwestern based on how Nebraska has used its defensive personnel over the last couple of games.

In last week's 25-24 win over Purdue, the Nebraska defense was on the field for 69 snaps, not including the fake punt. The Huskers spent 41 of those snaps in a 4-3 defense compared to just 19 in their base 3-4. Nebraska also showed seven snaps of dime (four with a four-man front and one linebacker and three with a three-man front and two linebackers) and two snaps of nickel (one in a 4-2 look and the other in a 3-3 formation).

The rash of injuries has opened the door for new players to see the field and has forced the coaches to get creative with their lineups. 

Defensive Line

Player Snap Count Breakdown
Freedom Akinmoladun, JR 54 54 DE
Carlos Davis, SO 50 32 DT, 18 DE
Mick Stoltenberg, JR 46 30 DT, 16 NT
Khalil Davis, SO 25 16 DT, 9 DE
Deontre Thomas, FR 17 13 DT, 4 NT
DaiShon Neal, SO 8 7 DE, 1 DT

For the first time all season, Freedom Akinmoladun led the defensive line in snaps with 54. For most of the first six games, sophomore Carlos Davis played almost every single snap. However, against Ohio State, the coaches began rotating him in and out for the first time as he was only on the field for 51 of the 88 snaps, and they continued that against the Boilermakers. Davis only played 50 snaps but they came at eight different spots in the six different looks Nebraska showed.

DaiShon Neal, the sophomore from Omaha Central, made his defensive debut against Purdue, playing eight snaps and assisting on a tackle.

Look for Nebraska to continue rotating bodies in and out against Northwestern to keep fresh legs in there against Justin Jackson. Northwestern's offenisve line has been a big weakness and Nebraska could look to exploit that by putting guys in positions to get in the backfield.


Player Sap Count Breakdown
Chris Weber, SR 69 41 MLB, 19 ILB, 7 dime LB, 2 nickel LB
Marcus Newby, SR 55 54 OLB, 1 ILB
Alex Davis, SO 38 25 DE, 10 OLB, 3 NT
Dedrick Young, JR 33 20 OLB, 11 ILB, 2 dime LB
Mohamed Barry, SO 31 22 OLB, 7 ILB, 2 nickel LB
Ben Stille, FR 29 21 DE, 8 OLB
Jacob Weinmaster, SO 5 5 OLB
Collin Miller, FR 5 4 DE, 1 dime LB

Senior Chris Weber was one of just two players who did not leave the field last week. With Dedrick Young limited, the coaches relied heavily on their most veteran 'backer to guide the defense. Next to him, sophomore Mohamed Barry got the start but split snaps pretty evenly with Young (31 to 33). 

Without Luke Gifford and Tyrin Ferguson, Marcus Newby played the lion's share of snaps at the Dog linebacker spot, and when Nebraska went into its subpackages the coaches got creative to replace Gifford's versatilty. Collin Miller, the redshirt sophomore who won scout team defensive MVP honors as a pass-rusher last year, was on the field for five of Nebraska's dime snaps. He lined up at defensive end but dropped into coverage on four of them and stood up as a linebacker but rushed the passer.

Sophomore walk-on Jacob Weinmaster also got five snaps at Dog linebacker to spell Newby.

Against Ohio State, Nebraska chose to move Alex Davis back to Cat linebacker rather than limiting him to pass-rushing downs on the defensive line. Against Purdue, Davis stood up for 10 of his 38 snaps but played along the line for his other 28 in Nebraska's 4-3-heavy game plan.

“Over the last couple weeks, Alex has been back at outside linebacker and he’s done a nice job and he’s getting better," linebackers coach Trent Bray said. "Things are starting to come together for him so he’s playing faster and better eyes and more assignment-sound.”

On the other hand, after showing some promise at linebacker, redshirt freshman Ben Stille played all 35 of his snaps against the Buckeyes at defensive end. Against Purdue, he was back at linebacker for eight of his 29 snaps.

“He’ll be at end this week," Bray said. "He’s just been a guy that’s been able to play multiple spots depending on the week, the offense and where we’ve needed him.”

After seeing his role grow over the course of a handful of weeks, Sedrick King did not log a defensive snap against Purdue.

Defensive Backs

Name Snap Count Breakdown
Joshua Kalu, SR 69 59 FS, 7 dime S, 2 nickel S, 1 BS
Lamar Jackson, SO 63 61 BCB, 2 FCB
Chris Jones, SR 54 53 FCB, 1 BCB
Marquel Dismuke, FR 42 35 BS, 4 dime S, 2 nickel S, 1 FS
Dicaprio Bootle, FR 20 14 FCB, 4 dime slot CB, 1 nickel slot CB, 1 BCB
Antonio Reed, JR 18 15 FS, 3 dime S
Eric Lee Jr., SO 10 6 BCB, 3 dime slot CB, 1 nickel slot CB
Aaron Williams, JR 9 9 BS
Kieron Williams, SR 4 4 dime S

Senior safety Joshua Kalu was the other Blackshirt who played all 69 snaps. He didn't have his best game, missing a few tackles, but he looks to be healthy enough after missing time with a hamstring injury to play heavy snaps. 

Next to Kalu was a revolving door of safeties. Aaron Williams started, but only played nine total snaps. Antonio Reed stepped in for him, but he too suffered another injury, leaving redshirt freshman Marquel Dismuke as the next healthy man up. Dismuke was on the field for more snaps than the rest of the non-Kalu safeties combined. When Nebraska went into dime after Reed and Williams both went down, senior Kieron Williams stepped in as the third safety along with Kalu and Dismuke.

After playing nearly the whole game against Ohio State, Nebraska pulled Chris Jones after some early struggles and gave fredshirt freshman Dicaprio Bootle a chance to see the field. Jones did return and finished with 54 snaps, second behind sophomore Lamar Jackson's 63. Jackson got banged up a bit after making a tackle at one point and Eric Lee Jr., a starter prior to Jones' return to the field, got a chance to see a handful of snaps in his place before getting knocked out of the game by some friendly fire from marcus Newby. As of Thursday, Lee was still in concussion protocol.

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