Though the future is uncertain for a variety of reasons, Saturday’s game against Minnesota is set to be senior day for the 18 true and redshirt seniors on the roster, including 13 scholarship players.
Much of Monday’s Zoom calls with the media were spent on reflection for the five seniors who spoke to reporters, but the answer about next year was the same across the board — the players are focused on finishing off this season and they’ll decide what to do after that.
Because the NCAA froze eligibility this season, all 18 seniors would be eligible to return for one more season. However, 12 of those scholarship seniors have been in school for five years already while a 13th — Christian Gaylord — is in his sixth year at Nebraska. Brenden Jaimes is the only true senior on scholarship.
Those seniors will have a lot to think about after the season comes to an end. However, if the majority of them choose not to return, the veteran Huskers feel they’ll be leaving the program in good hands with some of the young players waiting in the wings.
Jaimes has started a record 39 straight games, with the last 30 of them coming at left tackle. Working behind him is true freshman Turner Corcoran, the highest-ranked member of Nebraska’s 2020 recruiting class.
“Personally, I think he’s more mature than I was when I was in his shoes,” Jaimes said about Corcoran. “I think he’ll be a great asset to the team next year as he is this year. Whatever role he fills, I think he’ll be able to do it to the best of his ability. Coach Austin likes him. Coach Frost likes him. So along with all the other young guys, I think they’re doing a great job competing every day in practice.
“But for him, I think if he has to take that left tackle next year, I’m going to do my best to kind of give him all the advice that the older guys gave me and just pass down a legacy of being a left tackle at Nebraska.”
Redshirt freshman Bryce Benhart has been starting at right tackle all season, so if Corcoran succeeds Jaimes, the Huskers should have their bookend tackles set for the next there or four years.
At running back, Nebraska has a senior in Dedrick Mills and then nothing but freshmen behind him. The Huskers have already had to experience what life without Mills is like as the senior got banged up early during the week three win against Penn State. Mills felt a pop in his knee and took himself out of the game to make sure he didn’t do any further damage.
“So, me being smart, took a chance and just told Coach, ‘I feel confident in the younger guys. You can put either one, Marvin [Scott III], Rahmir [Johnson] and I feel like the game would still be the same,’” Mills said. “So that’s what happened and the young guys got in and did what they were supposed to do.”
Mills returned to the lineup to stabilize the backfield a bit last week against Purdue after missing the previous two weeks. Scott, Johnson and Ronald Thompkins have all shown flashes of their talent in their brief opportunities this season, and Sevion Morrison will be in the mix once he’s heathy as well.
On the other side of the ball, Dicaprio Bootle’s consecutive starts streak has reached 30 with 26 of those coming at cornerback. He spent his first two years as a starter playing across from Lamar Jackson, but this season, Cam Taylor-Britt has stepped into that role and is quickly becoming one of Nebraska’s best players.
“Cam is playing at an elite level,” Bootle said. “He’s a guy who’s a heavy competitor. Somebody who no matter what it is we could be flipping a coin he’s going to get in on that coin flip and be able to call it whether it’s heads or tails. That’s just a testament to the guy that he is. He’s took this year and took the time off to really help himself grow as a player and I always thought the highest Cam. I always thought he was a great player regardless. He might have had some miscues in in prior years who doesn’t.
“But that guy right there as somebody that’s younger than me I really admire his work. I really admire the things that he does on the field and just the player that he’s evolved into over his time here and you know down the line he continues to do what he’s doing it will pay off big time so it’s actually crazy because we were talking about this earlier in the locker room just telling him you know how much better he has gotten over the years and just telling him that I’m so happy that he’s been in my life for the past couple of years that way we can help each other grow and learn a lot from each other so that’s my guy forever.”
Even if Bootle moves on, the Huskers will have some good options with underclassmen like Quinton Newsome, Braxton Clark, Tamon Lynum and Nadab Joseph to pair with a burgeoning star in Taylor-Britt.
Up front, senior Ben Stille is the unquestioned leader of the defensive line. However, the Huskers are also getting a lot of snaps from sophomore Casey Rogers and redshirt freshman Ty Robinson, and both underclassmen have put some good football on tape this year.
“They have definitely made a lot of improvement over last year especially,” Stille said. “I’m happy with how they’re playing. Really good to see them just put it all together and be able to do it at a high level at such a young age.”
Nebraska could lose as many as 14 seniors who have been starters during their time in Lincoln, but the two-deep is littered with underclassmen who the program can feel good about moving forward.