Nebraska defensive linemen with opportunity to accelerate development
Nebraska's defensive line is one of the thinnest position groups on the team as it pertains to bodies and experience. The Huskers have ten student-athletes listed as defensive linemen and of those ten, two have extensive experience.
Sophomore Ty Robinson is the leader of the line with two seasons of starting experience and is also one of the most vocal leaders in the group, according to Husker defensive front coach Mike Dawson.
Junior Casey Rogers is the second most experienced D-lineman but fought an injury at the beginning of the 2021 season and is now out for this spring.
Dawson has his hands full with young, inexperienced players and has a short time to develop them. He said it has been difficult at times to be patient when players sometimes do the 'opposite' of what they're supposed to do but he knows they want to do well.
"It’s all about habits," the coach said. "When all of a sudden, (defensive coordinator Erik) Chinander calls something besides a base defense, and we have to move away from a pressure, how do you know that they're going to do it? Well, the same guy has been to all of his classes, goes to every meal, doesn't miss anything, usually, that guy does a good job of making sure that he doesn't miss an assignment."
He said the converse is true. The player that sometimes shows up to class or meals is a sometimes guy on the field. In a moment like he previously described, he said those players sometimes make the play or are in the wrong gap.
But Dawson said it's a good and bad thing to have limited numbers and inexperienced players because they are getting more reps during spring practice.
"When they're out there for an extended period of time, they get more fatigue," Dawson said. "So for them as a player, I'm sure they'd like a little bit of, not that they don't want the reps, but maybe get a blown between a little bit more. But for me, as a coach, No. 1, you get to get them more reps, you get to show them themselves on film more."
He added that he gets to see how the linemen perform when fatigued, more similar to a game-like situation.
Nebraska will likely add a defensive lineman or two from the transfer portal before the fall to add depth and experience to the group.
But until then, one player that has benefited from an increased number of reps is sophomore Mosai Newsom.
It typically takes time for linemen to start playing in the Big Ten. Newsom is entering his third season at Nebraska and getting closer to making an impact on the field, especially with this accelerated spring development.
“Big Ten football, it’s a lot of big guys, a lot of heavy-hitting offenses so it definitely takes a while to get developed and get to be that size and then just to get used to the speed of the game," he said.
Newsom said he came to Nebraska weighing 260 and standing at 6-foot-4 but is now up to 295 pounds.
Dawson said that after Newsom's time in the weight room and developing his body into a Big Ten caliber lineman, he needs to learn to use that strength, not just his athleticism, to beat opponents.
“Mosai is a guy that’s got great twitchiness. He’s got bouncy feet. He’s light on his feet," Dawson said. "He does a great job of that stuff. Got to still learn to be more physical in the run game. He was more of a skilled player, kind of edge guy, coming through high school but he had a great offseason with coach (Zach) Duval so he’s bigger than you probably saw him last.”
During his time as a Husker, Newsom has been able to learn from and watch "great" defensive linemen develop such as Carlos and Khalil Davis, Darrion and Damon Daniels and Ben Stille.
His opportunity to leave a mark on Nebraska, just as the players listed above did, starts this season with a limited number of interior defensive linemen.
“The whole passing the torch thing is pretty cool," Newsom said. "I keep saying we got a lot of guys that have been ahead of all of us that have been great examples to look at so I feel like it’s our time to play football, ball out."