With spring ball squarely in the rearview mirror, Nebraska rolls into the summer having answered some questions over the course of its 15 spring practices and with some still remaining.
Nebraska will add a bunch of freshmen to the mix this summer and likely a couple of transfers, too, and could also see players join receivers Jamie Nance and Demariyon Houston in opting to transfer out.
So, where does each position stand heading into the summer? The Journal Star will look at one a day over the next couple of weeks.
First up, the defensive line.
Monday: Defensive line
Tuesday: Outside linebacker
Wednesday: Inside linebacker
Saturday: Defensive depth chart projection
What we learned
It was expected to be a deep group in 2021 and spring ball reinforced that. Defensive line coach Tony Tuioti said he has at least six players he can trust and potentially seven in Ben Stille, Ty Robinson, Casey Rogers, Damion Daniels, Jordon Riley, Deontre Thomas and walk-on Colton Feist.
What we didn’t
It’s still unclear if any of NU’s next wave of players — think Nash Hutmacher, Marquis Black, Mosai Newsom and Ru’Quan Buckley — will be able to crack the rotation this fall. That’s not a bad problem to have at this stage for Tuioti, who overall was complimentary of the work his young players did this spring.
Stille is the unquestioned leader of the group, but Robinson appears to be next in line. The 6-foot-6, 315-pounder got a ton of snaps in 2020 and is poised to be one of the best players on the defense as soon as this fall. If he starts generating a consistent pass-rush this year, he will be a problem for many Big Ten offensive lines.
It’s tough to go with anybody but Feist, considering the way the walk-on has put himself on Tuioti's radar screen. The Yutan graduate has been in the program since 2018 and appeared in four games in 2020, mostly in clean-up duty. Another candidate is Hutmacher, who has veterans in front of him but made strides in his agility and showed well in the Red-White Spring Game.
Summer to-do list
Get Stille fully healthy after a spring surgery and stay on the current track overall. Do that, get freshman Jailen Weaver to campus and integrated this summer and keep one eye on the portal just in case a true difference-maker becomes available.
— Parker Gabriel