Nebraska opens spring football Monday and is set for a five-week session before the Red-White Spring Game on April 13 at Memorial Stadium. In the days before spring ball starts, the Journal Star is previewing each position group. We continue with the cornerbacks.
Returning players: Lamar Jackson, sr.; Eric Lee, sr.; Avery Anderson, sr.; Jeremiah Stovall, sr.; Dicaprio Bootle, jr.; Tony Butler, jr.; Cam Taylor, so.; Braxton Clark, rfr.; Moses Bryant, rfr.
Incoming players: Javin Wright.
Overview: Going into last season, Nebraska's corner situation was regarded as, well, an issue.
Entering the 2019 season, however, the corner position is regarded as a strong spot on the defense.
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The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Bootle, whose 15 pass breakups last season tied for the Big Ten lead, has emerged as a potential captain, such is his reliability and steady demeanor. His average of 1.3 passes defended per game last season ranked 16th nationally. For his efforts, Bootle was named a third-team All-Big Ten selection, becoming the first Husker cornerback to be honored by the conference since 2015.
Meanwhile, the 6-3, 215-pound Jackson overcame a midseason benching and emerged as one of the team’s most improved players. He started 11 of 12 games — all except the Oct. 6 contest at Wisconsin — and registered 28 tackles, a career-high seven pass breakups and his first two career interceptions while also forcing the first fumble of his career.
“He’s a guy that’s really figured some things out last year and at the end of the year was playing at a really high level,” Nebraska coach Scott Frost said on the radio earlier this week. “He’s a great team guy now, he’s working hard, has all the talent in the world. He’s kind of an example of the turnaround in that room. We had a long way to go in the defensive backfield a year ago, and now I’m excited about that group.”
Taylor, the sophomore from Montgomery, Alabama, played quarterback in high school, but made a successful transition to defense last season, recording 12 tackles and three pass breakups. He typically was the team's No. 3 corner, entering the game when the Huskers went to a dime defense.
Lee and Clark also will push for playing time this spring.
Jackson's two interceptions were the only ones recorded by Nebraska corners last season. Husker second-year secondary coach Travis Fisher no doubt will stress the need for more picks in 2019.