Over the next few weeks, we are going to take a look at each position group on the Nebraska football team. We plan to list who is on the roster by class and how much of the production of that group was lost to graduation (or transfer if applicable). Then we’ll share some of our observations and thoughts on the needs for that group.
The breakdowns will be repeated after spring ball when we have some additional observations from those practices to work with. This early breakdown is mostly to bring some closure to 2018.
Special Teams Coach
Jovan Dewitt (he also coaches outside linebackers)
Contributors in 2018
During the 2018 season, Nebraska had four (I was amazed too) long snappers on the roster but only two saw the field. Senior Jordan Ober was a four-year starter for Nebraska. Coach Dewitt mixed things up a bit when he replaced Ober with junior Chase Urbach on punts (long snaps) before the Michigan game. Ober still snapped on extra points and field goals (short snaps) for the entire season. Ober’s Huskers.com bio lists third team All-American honors in 2017.
Ober was a scholarship player. All three of the players on the 2019 roster are walk-ons.
- Chase Urbach (Grosse Pointe, MI) presumably, he will be the starter. If Coach Frost has extra scholarships available this fall, Urbach is a possible candidate to claim one.
Freshman - Both are redshirt freshman
- Cameron Pieper (Lincoln)
- Cade Mueller (Gretna)
Losses: Jordan Ober - graduation
If Coach Dewitt is not confident in either Pieper or Mueller, the Huskers may go looking for a LS recruit in 2019, possibly having to use a scholarship to lock one down. I’m not sure if this coaching staff prioritizes specialists in their roster management or not. I guess we will find out.
Barret Pickering handled all of the Husker field goal attempts in 2018. Pickering had a rough start to the season, but was pretty damn good by the end and is likely the Husker kicker heading into 2019 and probably beyond (barring injury or a regression to early 2018 form.)
The Huskers are quite young at this position. Pickering is the only scholardship kicker on the roster.
- Barret Pickering (Birmingham, AL)
- Noah McCashland (Lincoln) redshirt freshman
- Dylan Jorgensen (Lincoln) true freshman
Departures: Sophomore Cole Frahm (Omaha) is transferring to South Dakota State where Chase Vinatieri (yes, he is related to THAT Vinatieri) will be a senior in 2019.
Barring some kind of injury to Pickering or a bad case of yips, this doesn’t look like a high priority for recruiting this year.
There was actual punter drama for the Huskers in 2018. Scholarship punter and starter Caleb Lightbourn was replaced mid-season by walk-on Isaac Armstrong. Lightbourn was relegated to kickoff duty but was eventually replaced there by Pickering.
Lightbourn made himself famous, errr infamous, with this kickoff.
Lightbourn is on scholardship. Armstrong and Walker are walk-ons. Again, if Coach Frost has any extra schollies laying around at fall camp, Armstrong seems like a candidate for one.
- Caleb Lightbourn (Washougal, WA)
- Isaac Armstrong (Lincoln)
- Jackson Walker (Overland Park, KS)
Departures: Alec Cromer (Beatrice) - the junior started his career at South Dakota State (at quarterback) before transferring to Nebraska. His future plans are unknown (to me).
Since all three punters on the roster are seniors, this looks like an area the Husker coaches will need to recruit. Again, I don’t know if this staff prioritizes specialists for scholarships or not. We should know soon.
Six Huskers recorded yardage for kick returns in 2018. (The class listed by their names are for 2019.)
- Maurice Washington (sophomore) had 204 yards in 13 returns (15.7 avg)
- JD Spielman (junior) 169 yards in 8 returns (21.1 avg)
- Jaron Woodyard (senior) 50 yards; 4 returns (12.5 avg)
- Wyatt Mazour (senior) 48 yards; 3 returns (16 avg)
- Jack Stoll (junior) 16 yards; 2 returns (8 avg)
- Mikale Wilbon (graduated) 3 yards; 1 return (3 avg)
Most of the production at this position returns for 2019. I expect some of the incoming freshman could get a look here if the staff wants to reduce the wear and tear on starters, especially Spielman.
Four Huskers returned punts in 2018. Just like above, the class year listed by each name is their status for 2019.
- JD Spielman (junior) 6 returns; 104 yards (17.3 avg)
- Tyjon Lindsey (transferred out) 5 returns; 1 yard (0.2 avg)
- Stanley Morgan Jr. (graduated) 4 returns; 19 yards (4.8 avg)
- Marquel Dismuke (junior) 1 return; 26 yards (26.0 avg)
Spielman is the only punt returner coming back with significant experience. I think this could be an area where we see a newcomer get some time on the field. It seems to me that the staff would want to reduce Spielman’s exposure to hits given the fact that the Husker wide receiver corps will depend so heavily on him.
Husker special teams were a mess (to put it kindly) but improved as the season progressed. This is one area where if Nebraska an at least field an average unit, it will at least avoid being the cause for losing games. There are several solid contributors returning. Let’s hope year 2 of Frost brings better discipline and more attention to details.
It can’t get worse, right? Right?