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2020 Nebraska Football Preview: Defensive Line

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There’s a whole lotta stuff to replace here.

Northern Illinois v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Our beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers return a lot of guys from last year’s team. You can debate whether or not that’s good, but I’m guessing which side you choose is entirely dependent upon how well you feel next year’s team will do overall.

The defensive line is the one position group that has lost all of its starters from last season. Again, good or bad?

Who’s Gone

  • Darrion Daniels (19 solo tackles, 15 assists, 34 total, 3.5 TFL, one sack, 1 interception)
  • Khalil Davis (28 solo tackles, 17 assists, 45 total, 11 TFL, 8 sacks
  • Carlos Davis (17 solo tackles, 15 assists, 32 total, 4.5 TFL, 1 fumble recovery, 1 forced fumble)
  • DaiShon Neal (1 assisted tackle)
  • Vaha Vainuku (did not appear in a game)
  • Fyn Anderson (appeared in four games, but no stats)

The top three names on the list were starters in the 3-4 for the vast majority of the 2019 season. Nebraska must find a way to replace the productivity of one Daniels and the Davis twins.

Who’s Back

  • Ben Stille (13 solo tackles, 18 assists, 31 total, 6.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 5 quarterback hurries)
  • Damion Daniels (3 solo tackles, 10 assists, 13 total)
  • Keem Green (1 assist, 1 total)
  • Damian Jackson (1 solo tackle, 1 assist, 2 total)
  • Mosai Newsom
  • Tate Wildeman
  • Deontre Thomas (8 solo tackles, 11 assists, 19 total, 1.5 TFL, 1 quarterback hurry)
  • Ty Robinson
  • Casey Rogers
  • Chris Walker

You have your knowns. Ben Stille is a known. He’s a senior and 2020 should be his year. There’s no one of more experience in front of him, and it’s time for him to show he can be a leader of this incredibly important unit.

Damion Daniels is a known. He’s a junior, played in every game in 2019, and is no longer behind his brother on a projected depth chart. He is a massive human around which this defense could anchor itself should he come through.

Deontre Thomas - another known, another junior. Also played in every game last season. Damian Jackson played in two games last season, but as a former Navy SEAL dude, doesn’t have to be on the field to be a leader and have his presence felt.

The unknowns - Green, Newsom, Wildeman, Robinson, Rogers, Walker.

Green played in three games last season, but came in as one of the top JUCO DL’s in the nation. He’s a junior. Can he produce in the Big Ten? He’s certainly going to be needed to do something.

Newsom and Wildeman redshirted last season, didn’t appear in a game. Robinson played in two games, so he preserved his redshirt. Rogers played in four. Walker spent last season injured. Will these guys contribute?

Bottom line - you’ve got two guys you know are solid contributors. That’s... uh, not near enough, is it?

You also have some walk-ons who’ve been around who might contribute. Matt Huser, Jacob Herbek, Colton Feist, and Ben Lingenfelter.

Who’s New

  • Pheldarius Payne - JUCO
  • Jordon Riley - JUCO
  • Marquis Black
  • Nash Hutmacher
  • Baylor Brannen
  • Casey Doernemann

Jordon Riley and Pheldarius Payne come in as juniors. They’ve had their time in the ranks, and one hopes that they’ll both do more than just “provide depth” this coming season. Neither are highly ranked; both are three stars.

Black are Hutmacher are decent recruits, but it’s rare that a first-year guy contributes a whole lot in either offensive or defensive line. It’d be a pleasant surprise if they could, but that would only mean that the players above them in experience weren’t good enough to beat them in the first place.

Why Be Pessimistic?

Nebraska was 102nd nationally giving up 4.82 yards per rush last season. They were 13th in the Big Ten, ahead of only Rutgers as 4.88 yards per carry. That’s... pretty crappy. It either has to improve or Nebraska damned well better have an offense capable of scoring 40 points a game against every team it faces.

There’s not a lot of proven here. Potential, perhaps, but not much proven.

Why Be Optimistic?

Nebraska might have an offense capable of scoring 40 points a game. I realize I’m not providing a lot of optimism for the defense here... but, hey, if the offense can put the points on the board, the defense only has to be average for us to have a decent season (whatever “decent season” means).

Stille might explode his senior season, providing more of a pass rush than Nebraska’s seen from a defensive lineman in a very long time. The two JUCO guys might blossom in our program. We might start using “Nutmasher” as a nickname before half the season is over. Guys like Rogers and Wildeman might surprise.

There’s all sorts of reasons to be optimistic. Are they realistic reasons? After three losing seasons IN A ROW, I would recommend you hold off on drinking all the Kool-Aid until July or August. That way you don’t get drunk early. Maybe just before the season starts it’s okay to get excited.

Now?

No.

Baseball has started. The wrestling program might have a historic season. There’s other things going on. Pay attention to them.

Roster

2020 Defensive Line

No Name Ht WT Year Hometown/Previous School
No Name Ht WT Year Hometown/Previous School
4 Keem Green 6-5 315 Jr. Sumter, S.C. / Highlands CC/Sumter
38 Damian Jackson 6-2 275 Jr. Las Vegas, Nev. / Shadow Ridge
52 Mosai Newsom 6-4 285 R-Fr. Waverly, Iowa / Waverly-Shell Rock
55 Chris Walker 6-6 300 Jr. Lincoln, Neb. / East
70 Matt Huser 6-5 300 R-Fr. Omaha, Neb. / Millard West
80 Jacob Herbek 6-5 220 R-Fr. Grand Island, Neb. / Central Catholic
82 Colton Feist 6-2 280 So. Yutan, Neb. / Yutan
84 Eli Richter 6-4 240 R-Fr. Kearney, Neb. / Kearney Catholic
90 Ben Lingenfelter 6-4 290 Jr. Cherokee, Iowa / Washington
92 Tate Wildeman 6-5 290 So. Parker, Colo. / Legend
93 Damion Daniels 6-3 340 Jr. Dallas, Texas / Bishop Dunne
95 Ben Stille 6-5 295 Sr. Ashland, Neb. / Ashland-Greenwood
97 Deontre Thomas 6-3 295 Jr. Mustang, Okla. / Mustang
98 Casey Rogers 6-4 300 So. Syracuse, N.Y. / Westhill/Old Farms Prep (Avon, Conn.)
99 Ty Robinson 6-6 315 R-Fr. Gilbert, Ariz. / Higley
Marquis Black 6-4 290 Fr. McDonough, Ga. / Eagle's Landing Christian Academy
Baylor Brannen 6-4 260 Fr. Omaha, Neb. / Millard West
Casey Doernemann 6-5 250 Fr. West Point, Neb. / Guardian Angels CC
Nash Hutmacher 6-5 300 Fr. Oacoma, S.D. / Chamberlain
Pheldarius Payne 6-3 275 Jr. Suffolk, Va. / Nansemond River HS/Lackawanna CC
Jordon Riley 6-6 290 Jr. New Bern, N.C. / Riverside HS/North Carolina/Garden City CC