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2020 Nebraska Football Preview: Defensive Backs

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Where do the Huskers sit at cornerback and safety as they head into spring ball?

Nebraska v Illinois Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Check out the other position previews:


Unless otherwise noted, any reference to a class year is for the 2020 season.

Rewind to 2019

For the first game of 2019, the starting backfield included cornerbacks Dicaprio Bootle and Lamar Jackson and safeties Deontai Williams and Marquel Dismuke. JoJo Domann had moved to outside linebacker after spending time at safety in 2018 and Cam Taylor-Britt was listed as a reserve cornerback.

Williams injured his shoulder vs South Alabama and did not play again in 2019. Against Colorado, the coaches started the game in nickel with Eric Lee, Jr sliding into Wiliams’ safety spot (Lee played cornerback in 2018) and Taylor-Britt starting as the third cornerback. In the third game (Northern Illinois) Taylor-Britt took over as starting safety for Lee while Dismuke, Jackson and Bootle maintained their starting roles. By the final game of the season, Taylor-Britt was starting at corner while Bootle started at safety.

All of this is to point out that this coaching staff does not distinguish between cornerbacks and safeties as much as some others. They move guys around and expect them to know how to play multiple positions.

Returning for 2020

Position coach: Travis Fisher

Seniors

  • Marquel Dismuke was the leading tackler of the DBs in 2019 with 67. He added a fumble recovery and four pass breakups (PBUs)
  • Dicaprio Bootle (31 tackles; 6 PBU; 1 forced fumble, FF)
  • Deontai Williams (2 tackles)
  • Eli Sullivan (Nebraska special teams player of the year in 2019, 12 tackles, a PBU and a blocked kick)
  • Even though JoJo Domann is listed as an outside linebacker, he could see time at safety or as a nickel/dime back

Juniors

  • Cam Taylor-Britt (49 tackles, 3 interceptions, three PBU, four FF) - named honorable mention All Big Ten
  • Bradley Bunner (no game appearances)
  • Lane McCallum (no game stats at safety, but was one of several placekickers used by Nebraska and made the game-winning field goal vs Northwestern)

Sophomores

  • Quinton Newsome - played in 10 games on special teams and took snaps on defense in four games in 2019 (no stats)
  • Braxton Clark - started in place of Cam Taylor-Britt vs Purdue (Cam was sick) and played all 12 games (the first two exclusively on special teams before getting defensive snaps). He totaled 11 tackles, one interception and one fumble recovery.
  • Phalen Sanford (no game appearances). Interesting trivia, he transferred to Nebraska from Hastings College where he competed in the hepathlon and qualified for the NAIA national track meet in high jump (maybe Coach Frost is grooming him for the special teams potential of blocking kicks?)

Redshirt Freshman

Scott Frost and company recruited a highly regarded group of defensive backs in 2019, but did not burn redshirts, even when injuries started to mount up.

  • Javin Wright (played special teams one game; was on the travel roster for Colorado)
  • Myles Farmer (played in four games on special teams and saw defensive snaps in three of those)
  • Noa Pola-Gates - was a player many Husker fans thought might see his redshirt burned, but he suffered a season-ending injury after playing in two games
  • Tyson Guzman (walk on)

Not Returning

  • Lamar Jackson (graduation) - second team All Big Ten, currently at the NFL combine
  • Isaiah Stalbird (transfer) - played all 12 games, 13 tackles, blocked punt
  • Reid Karel (graduation) - played all 12 games, 12 tackles
  • Eric Lee, Jr. (graduation) - played all 12 games, one start, 20 tackles, two interceptions
  • Avery Anderson (graduation) - no game appearances as a junior or senior but played in 11 games as a sophomore and three as a freshman
  • Jeramiah Stovall - (graduation) a walk-on awarded a scholarship for 2019. Played in all 12 games on special teams
  • Tony Butler (transfer) - played in three games

[Siren Sounds] Incoming

  • Henry Gray - four star recruit, early enrollee
  • Ronald Delancy III - three star recruit
  • Jaden Francois - four star recruit, early enrollee
  • Tamon Lynum - three star recruit, early enrollee
  • Isaac Gifford - “blueshirt”, early enrollee but won’t go on scholarship until fall
  • Walk-ons - Mason Nieman, Ashton Hausmann

Outlook for 2020

There appears to be a good mix of seniors and young talent likely to see playing time for the Huskers. Starters Dismuke, Taylor-Britt, Williams, and Bootle all return for Nebraska as do significant contributors in Sullivan, Newsome and Clark. Again, Domann is a candidate to see snaps in the defensive backfield depending on how the coaches move the versatile LB/DB around. Bootle started 2019 at CB and ended at safety while Taylor-Britt started 2019 at safety and ended at CB. Both are currently on the roster at CB, so they may get the first looks to start there. Williams and Dismuke are the most experienced safeties. Redshirt freshman Wright, Farmer and Pola-Gates are likely to get extended looks in spring ball and should see the field in the fall.

Thus far, Scott Frost and staff have only burned redshirts for exceptional cases - Adrian Martinez, Wan’Dale Robinson and Maurice Washington being a few examples. Henry Gray will have more experienced bodies ahead of him at safety than Delancy, Francois and Lynum will at cornerback. Gifford is currently listed as a defensive back, but he was generally listed as a safety on the recruiting sites (and may be a candidate for the hybrid position that JoJo Domann occupies?) The wildcards here are in:

  • how the coaching staff moves their defensive backs around to get the combination they want on the field - they are not shy about switching safeties and CBs back and forth
  • a younger player making it impossible for the coaches to not put him on the field
  • injuries. Ughh. Hopefully not

Nebraska Defensive Backs 2020

# Name Position Height Weight Class Hometown
# Name Position Height Weight Class Hometown
8 Deontai Williams S 6-1 205 Sr. Jacksonville, Fla. / Jones County JC/Trinity Christian Academy
18 Myles Farmer S 6-3 205 R-Fr. Atlanta, Ga. / Westlake
19 Marquel Dismuke S 6-2 215 Sr. Compton, Calif. / Calabasas
26 Noa Pola-Gates S 5-11 175 R-Fr. Gilbert, Ariz. / Williams Field
30 Eli Sullivan S 6-2 215 Sr. Longmont, Colo. / Longmont
47 Tyson Guzman S 6-3 210 R-Fr. Omaha, Neb. / Westside
48 Lane McCallum S 6-2 220 Jr. Norfolk, Neb. / Air Force/Norfolk
Henry Gray S 6-0 175 Fr. Hollywood, Fla. / Central
Isaac Gifford DB 6-1 195 Fr. Lincoln, Neb. / Southeast
Ashton Hausmann DB 6-0 190 Fr. Roca, Neb. / Norris
5 Cam Taylor-Britt CB 6-0 215 Jr. Montgomery, Ala. / Park Crossing
12 Quinton Newsome CB 6-2 180 So. Suwanee, Ga. / North Gwinnett
17 Braxton Clark CB 6-4 210 So. Orlando, Fla. / Dr. Phillips
23 Dicaprio Bootle CB 5-10 195 Sr. Miami, Fla. / Southridge
33 Javin Wright CB 6-3 205 R-Fr. Chandler, Ariz. / Hamilton
37 Phalen Sanford CB 6-0 190 So. Benkelman, Neb. / Hastings College / Dundy County-Stratton
39 Bradley Bunner CB 6-0 195 Jr. Clarkson, Neb. / Clarkson Public School
Ronald Delancy III CB 5-11 160 Fr. Miami, Fla. / Northwestern
Jaiden Francois CB 6-0 185 Fr. Homestead, Fla. / South Dade
Tamon Lynum CB 6-2 170 Fr. Orlando, Fla. / Evans
Mason Nieman ATH 6-3 175 Fr. Waverly, Neb. / Waverly