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Nebraska Football

Hot Reads: Reviewing the Red Wolves

August 24, 2017
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Only 10 days to Nebraska football 2017 launch. We’re getting close. And, as the Huskers have moved on from fall camp to Arkansas State preparation, so might we. At least for a moment. Here’s what has been happening with the Red Wolves in recent weeks:

>>I watched a few Arkansas State games from 2016 in the past week or so. I came away impressed by two things — the coaching and the defensive line. The Red Wolves led the nation with 125 tackles for loss last year and most of the major pieces are back. This doesn’t look like a typical Group of 5 line.

But it did take a hit last week as defensive tackle Dee Liner went down with a groin injury on August 16. Liner, one of the top defensive tackle prospects in the 2015 recruiting class, signed with Alabama but transferred to Arkansas State. He appeared in all 13 games in 2016, tallying 8.5 tackles for loss.

The original time frame listed for the injury was “two to six weeks” so it’s possible Liner will be out for the Nebraska game. The Red Wolves do have two other defensive tackles with games under their belt — including Donovan Ransom, who looked pretty good in the games I watched — but Liner was on a different level.

>>In Liner’s absence, defensive end Ja’Von Rolland-Jones has taken it upon himself to rally the defensive line. That’s on top of already being the Red Wolves’ best player.

If there’s an Arkansas State name to know for next week, it’s Rolland-Jones. The Sun Belt Player of the Year had 21 TFLs in 2016, including 13 sacks, and is the perfect sort of hybrid DE/OLB Nebraska would love to have right about now.

It’s going to make Rolland-Jones, a senior, pretty enticing come NFL Draft time next spring.

>>This seems strange for those of us now accustomed to the Big Ten, but the Sun Belt does preseason all-conference teams and a conference poll.

Five Red Wolves earned first-team honors: Rolland-Jones, linebacker Kyle Wilson, defensive back Justin Clifton, return specialist Blaise Taylor and tight end Blake Mack. Taylor also earned second-team preseason honors as a defensive back alongside Liner and wide receiver Dijon Paschal.

Arkansas State was picked third in the Sun Belt, receiving one first-place vote.

Opening-week lines are always a bit noisy, but after opening near 20 the Nebraska-Arkansas State line is down to around 16 points at VegasInsider.com, which seems a little more in line with what the Red Wolves return. At least to me.

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