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Nebraska Football

Hot Reads: The Deepest Part of the Huskers' Defense

March 14, 2019
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"We’re not very deep at that spot in the spring," Scott Frost said last week. He was talking about running back, but he or another of Nebraska's assistants has mentioned a lack of depth (to at least some degree) at wide receiver, inside linebacker and outside linebacker. There are legitimate questions for the Huskers to answer at all of those spots.

But it's not all shallowness this spring.

There is the defensive line, where the Huskers have six upperclassmen, two sophomores with at least a season of experience and a pair of talented freshmen coming off redshirt seasons.

"It's a deep group right now," defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said Wednesday.

Knew there was one of those in there somewhere for Nebraska. There are the Davises and Danielses and a bigger Ben Stille leading the way. Of the 22 tackles for loss tallied by a defensive lineman last season, the guys responsible for 17 of them are participating in practice this spring.

It might mean even better numbers for that group this fall as the defensive front has swapped questions for answers.

"I really like the violence they're playing with up front," Chinander said, "and they're really running to the football right now . . . Last year was getting used to the calls, the different fronts. What mode am I in? Am I in two-gap? Am I in one-gap? Am I getting up the field? Am I trying to build a wall? Is it time to rush the passer? What is the call telling me to do?

"Those guys are kind of in and out with ease right now with another year in the system. They've been pretty impressive so far."

If that remains true for Nebraska in the fall, that's a potentially big development for the Huskers. The defense made some strong gains in havoc rate (how much hell a defense is raising, essentially) a year ago, but there's still work to be done there, particularly on the defensive line.

Nebraska might have the experience and talent to make those gains. It's an interesting group. There are no already-minted stars, but there are multiple players who now understand the scheme and have played a lot of football. Conditions are conducive for one or more of those guys to emerge.

And if all or even some of them come along?

"The game is won up front, on both sides of the football," Chinander said. "When that defensive line knocks people in the backfield it's a lot easier for those linebackers to stay clean and make tackles. Also, it's easier for the DBs. Even though they're doing a great job right now, some of those balls are coming out pretty hot because those guys are pushing the pocket pretty good right now.

"It helps in the run and it helps in the pass. When you're good up front, it helps everybody."

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