Nebraska position review: Defensive back
football Edit

Nebraska position review: Defensive back

While the new year has begun, HuskerOnline is looking back at the previous season and taking a deep dive into each of Nebraska's positions, how they graded, their trends and other observations.

The defensive backs are next on HuskerOnline's review of Nebraska's 2021 production, a group losing several key veterans.

Series: QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | LB |

2021 Nebraska cornerback PFF grades
Player Snaps Defense Run defense Tackle/Pass-rush Coverage

Cam Taylor-Britt

785

74.2

70.3

63.3/58.7

76.3

Quinton Newsome

764

58.6

71.1

65.8/66.1

55.1

Braxton Clark

122

53.3

46

52.9/--

54.9

Marques Buford Jr.

19

75.9

61.3

--/--

76

Nebraska's cornerback PFF grades for the 2021 season
Nebraska cornerback Quinton Newsome
Nebraska cornerback Quinton Newsome (Getty Images)

Cornerback observations

Coverage grade:

As a team, Nebraska's coverage grade is 81.5, ranking them No. 28 in FBS and fifth in the Big Ten behind Iowa (No. 4 overall), Penn State (No. 5), Minnesota (No. 19) and Illinois (No. 23).

The Huskers leading coverage scores are linebacker JoJo Domann (87.8), linebacker Luke Reimer (82.9) and cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt (76.3). As a whole, the cornerbacks average a 65.6 grade while the safeties average a 60.

While the Husker overall coverage grade was solid compared to the FBS, two of their top three defenders in the category are moving onto the NFL.

Cam Taylor-Britt:

Nebraska's cornerbacks have been led by Cam Taylor-Britt for the past three seasons. Taylor-Britt had the highest grades of any secondary player in 2021.

His coverage grade ranks him No. 64 in FBS and his reception percentage of 53 percent. In 2021, Taylor-Britt only allowed two games with over 40 receiving yards on his coverage.

Against Purdue, Taylor-Britt mostly covered wide receiver David Bell, who is one of the top wide receiver prospects in the 2022 NFL draft. Taylor-Britt allowed four catches on the 10 targets that were in his area during that game.

Passing the torch:

With Taylor-Britt moving on, young players like Quinton Newsome and Braxton Clark, who have experience, will have to step up.

In 2021, Newsome was the second cornerback on the field and improved statistically as the season went on. He had some of his worst games at the beginning of the season but finished it by scoring a 74 or higher in three categories against Iowa.

Newsome and Clark will be relied on in NU's cornerback group in 2022 as the most experienced players.

2021 Nebraska Safety PFF grades
Player Snaps Defense Run Defense Tackle/pass-rush Coverage

Marquel Dismuke

725

64.9

64.4

49.8/48.3

66.7

Deontai Williams

480

63.5

59.7

55.9/55.7

64.9

Myles Farmer

455

56.5

53

43.1/57.8

57.8

Isaac Gifford

94

68.5

72.4

33.8/56.5

66.1

Noa Pola-Gates

25

46.8

55.7

--/--

45.9

Nebraska's Safeties PFF grades in the 2021 season.
Nebraska safety Deontai Williams running back an interception against Michigan
Nebraska safety Deontai Williams running back an interception against Michigan (Getty Images)

Safety observations:

Next man up at Nickel:

Isaac Gifford is projected to take over for JoJo Domann at Nebraska's nickel position, a hybrid between a linebacker and a defensive back. Domann, who was listed as an outside linebacker, is entering the 2022 NFL draft after six years with the Huskers.

Gifford played towards the end of the Northwestern game when Domann was out due to a hand injury and started against Iowa last season. He scored above 60 with two scores in the 70s for those two games. However, recorded a 19.3 on tackling against Iowa, which tanked his otherwise 75.8 grade.

The Huskers have planned on Gifford taking over for Domann since before the 2021 season and have been preparing him to do so. His grades are promising for a young player who players sporadically.

The sixth-years:

Nebraska's safeties were led by Marquel Dismuke and Deontai Williams in the 2021 season who both are moving on from Nebraska after their six years in the program. However, both Williams and Dismuke struggled in 2021 and scored much lower than they had in their other seasons.

Dismuke's coverage grade is No. 96 in the Power Five. He had a stretch from week five to week 10 where he scored much better and averaged between a 65 to a 73 grade in four categories.

Williams was injured and missed the final four games. While Dismuke did best in the middle of the season, Williams surged at the beginning specifically against Fordham and Buffalo. He led the team with four interceptions.

The Huskers relied on their super seniors in 2021 and saw a decrease in production from both players based on their previous seasons.

Farmer:

Third-year freshman Myles Farmer started with Williams on the sideline and as the third safety during the rest of the season. With both Williams and Dismuke moving on, Farmer is by far the most experienced safety on Nebraska's current roster.

Farmer didn't have a game where he allowed more than 35 yards on the passes he was covering. As a young player, Farmer was likely targeted more by offenses and held his own. He allowed 14 receptions on 21 targets in 2021.

The young safety will have to step up in 2022 and lead the safeties with his experience and leadership abilities and help bring along a young group and JUCO transfer DeShon Singleton.