Red-White Spring Game 5.1

Nebraska defensive coordinator Erik Chinander (center) helps lead the Huskers through warmups ahead of the Red-White Spring Game earlier this month at Memorial Stadium.

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Parker Gabriel and Chris Basnett talk about the lull in the college football world before a wild June of recruiting visits and workouts begins. In baseball, Spencer Schwellenbach is rising up MLB Draft boards while the Huskers found out Friday that they will not play host to a regional in the NCAA Tournament. 

Before Nebraska began spring football, the Journal Star took a stab at compiling a projected depth chart on each side of the ball.

Now that spring ball has come and gone, it’s a good time to revisit. Over the past week, each defensive position got an updated look.

Before shifting to offense next week, here’s an updated depth chart projection based on what coaches and players said over five weeks and 15 practices, what we’ve seen and what is known about injury situations.

On a veteran defense, only the projection for the defensive line remained the same.

Defensive line

DE: 1. Ben Stille, senior. 2. Deontre Thomas, junior.

DT: 1. Damion Daniels, junior. 2. Jordon Riley, junior.

DE: 1. Ty Robinson, redshirt freshman, OR Casey Rogers, sophomore.

Changes from pre-spring: None. Stille missed the spring after having surgery this winter, but he’s expected to be back in the mix over the summer. Overall, it was a pretty straightforward spring for the Husker defensive line, which has big expectations for itself this fall. The only surprise — and new candidate for a spot on the two-deep — is walk-on Colton Feist.

The spring gave the rotation players a good chance to get work in and also allowed for some development time for the next wave of young guys, but this is going to be a veteran group in 2021.

Outside linebacker

1. JoJo Domann, senior. 2. Javin Wright, redshirt freshman OR Isaac Gifford, freshman.

1. Pheldarius Payne, junior, OR Garrett Nelson, sophomore.

Changes from pre-spring: Wright and Gifford enter the picture at the Sam/nickel spot, having worked there the entire spring with Domann limited. That dropped junior Caleb Tannor out of this particular projection, though he’s still going to be part of the rotation. It’s just a matter of how Mike Dawson and company want to utilize the group and also how much even front vs. odd front the Huskers end up playing. There are situations, for example, where two of Nelson, Tannor and Payne plus Domann could all be on the field.

Inside linebacker

1. Chris Kolarevic, junior 2. Garrett Snodgrass, redshirt freshman.

1. Luke Reimer, sophomore, OR Nick Henrich, redshirt freshman.

Changes from pre-spring: Senior Will Honas drops out of the two-deep because of the knee injury he suffered during drill work on the last practice before the Red-White Spring Game. Honas will not be ready for the beginning of the season and, given his status as a sixth-year player with a different major knee injury in his past, it’s unclear whether he’ll play at all in 2021.

Kolarevic impressed coaches and teammates alike and looks like a strong candidate to start with Reimer. Listing Henrich on the co-starting line with Reimer is more a nod to the fact that Barrett Ruud is likely to use primarily a three-man rotation without Honas available. Henrich was mostly healthy this spring but didn’t play in the Red-White Spring Game. NU could really use at least one more whom Ruud trusts to play at least some snaps, and Snodgrass seems like the best bet at this point.

Cornerback

1. Cam Taylor-Britt, junior. 2. Nadab Joseph, sophomore.

1. Quinton Newsome, sophomore. 2. Braxton Clark, sophomore.

Changes from pre-spring: Elevated Newsome to the starting spot ahead of Clark after giving the OR designation pre-spring. Defensive backs coach Travis Fisher said Newsome has taken the lead for the job and nothing late in spring ball suggested the Georgia native was letting it slip.

One thing to watch here: With Joseph out during the spring game, the No. 2 corner across from Clark was Benkelman walk-on Phalen Sanford. Sanford was a track standout at Dundy County-Stratton High and then went to Hastings for his freshman year before transferring to NU. He’s been near the top of the Huskers’ performance index testers in several categories. At the least, he’s likely to play on special teams like he did in the final five games of 2020.

Safety

1. Marquel Dismuke, senior. 2. Noa Pola-Gates, redshirt freshman.

1. Deontai Williams, senior. 2. Myles Farmer, redshirt freshman.

Changes from pre-spring: Dropped Gifford off the No. 2 line because he spent most of the spring backing up Domann. Other than that, the top four look solid coming out of spring ball. Fisher expressed a high degree of confidence in Farmer and Pola-Gates, referring to them as 1.5s rather than 2s. When push comes to shove, Fisher hasn’t done a ton of rotating in-game over the past couple of years. Will that change this fall?

Specialists

Placekicker: 1. Connor Culp, senior. 2. Gabe Heins, redshirt freshman.

Punter: 1. Daniel Cerni, freshman OR William Przystup, sophomore.

Long snapper: 1. Cade Mueller, sophomore, OR Cameron Pieper, sophomore.

Changes from pre-spring: Cerni and Przystup get the OR designation for now as Cerni, a freshman from Australia, didn’t appear to do enough this spring to clearly win the job. That’s not to say he won’t, but for now, Przystup remains a candidate to win the job.

Also moved Gabe Heins to the No. 2 placekicking job behind Culp, mostly because he was the only other player to attempt a kick in the Red-White Spring Game. NU hopes it won’t have to go beyond Culp, of course, since he’s the reigning Big Ten kicker of the year.

The more pressing question on the kicking front is who will handle kickoff duties. Freshman walk-on Kelen Meyer is a candidate when he gets to campus this summer, or NU could look for a transfer addition. The Huskers would be much better off if they had somebody who could regularly drive the ball into the end zone, and neither Culp nor Heins has shown that.

Contact the writer at pgabriel@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.

This article originally ran on journalstar.com.

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