WAHOO – Depth in the secondary was alarmingly light to Nebraska’s coaching staff when they arrived in December.
When spring practice began in March, the Huskers had only eight total defensive backs, four safeties and four cornerbacks, on scholarship.
Defensive backs coach Travis Fisher told a group at Wahoo’s Hilltop Country Club on Tuesday during the Husker Nation Tour that only three of those eight defensive backs came through the spring fully healthy.
The Huskers will add four freshmen defensive backs on scholarship this fall, along with two walk-ons. Nebraska also added Deontai Williams from Jones County Junior College to provide safety depth. Last week, Mesa Community College transfer Will Jackson announced his commitment to the Huskers, giving NU immediate help at cornerback.
While Fisher can’t comment on Jackson until the fall, he’s confident in saying that Williams will be a big piece for the next three years of his eligibility.
“Deontai is probably the most athletic DB I have,” Fisher said. “He’s going to play a lot for us. I may even make him a corner. He’s a safety, but I may make him a corner. He can play, he can cover, but right now, I think it’s best to keep him at safety.”
Nebraska’s freshmen DBs have all arrived on campus. Fisher had a chance to talk with all of them as a group Monday night.
With a lack of depth at both corner and safety, Fisher wanted to let them know that they’ll have a shot to potentially earn a starting role right away.
“They’re not hear to wait,” Fisher said. “They’re not here to sit around. They’re not here to be babysat. They’re here to take over this deal, and they expect to be on the field playing for us this year.”
Fisher also had a chance to talk recently with his veteran defensive backs, of which there are few with playing experience.
Lamar Jackson, Eric Lee and DiCaprio Bootle are the only corners on roster with significant playing time. At safety, seniors Antonio Reed and Aaron Williams are the only ones that have started a game at their respective position.
Fisher told this group of older guys that they won’t be surpassed so easily.
“I also wanted the older guys to hear, ‘It’s not your job to get that starting spot. It’s your job to teach these freshmen and that these freshmen know that they also have some work to put in,'” Fisher said.
Fisher said the veterans that returned at defensive back “came-a-ways” in the spring, particularly Jackson.
“He’s not there,” Fisher said. “He’s still going back and forth with the things he did last year. He’s inconsistent, but at least he shows it.”
Fisher will get sophomore safety JoJo Domann back soon. There’s no timetable on his full return to the field, but Fisher said he’ll be cleared soon to run with strength coach Zach Duval and possibly some 7-on-7 drills.
Fisher doesn’t want to rush him along, though.
“We need JoJo for the long run, and not just the beginning of camp…or just one or two games,” he said.
Sophomore Marquel Dismuke added 31 tackles as a reserve safety last season, and is “another late-bloomer” who could help add depth this season.
“Now, you have guys to push guys,” Fisher said. “That’s when (the competitiveness) starts. “Say for instance you have Lamar Jackson, who’s potentially the best DB in the room, but you have a guy behind him that’s supposed to push him for a spot, but doesn’t like football. That’s not a competitive room.”
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