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 outside linebackers.
Departed: Luke Gifford, Guy Thomas (transfer).
Returning players: Tyrin Ferguson, sr.; Alex Davis, sr.; Quayshon Alexander, jr.; Pernell Jefferson, jr.; Caleb Tannor, so.; Breon Dixon, so.; Jordan Paup, so.; David Alston, rfr.
Incoming players: Jamin Graham, Garrett Nelson.
2018 statistical leaders: Ferguson, 36 tackles (six TFLs) in eight games; Tannor, 10 tackles (one sack); Davis, five tackles.
Overview: Beefing up the pass rush has to be one of Nebraska's most pressing needs overall, as the Huskers tied for 76th nationally last season with 25 sacks, including seven against Colorado.
The Huskers count on their outside linebackers to provide all sorts of disruption.
Gifford, a Lincoln Southeast graduate, was Nebraska's most disruptive outside linebacker last season, recording team-leading totals of 13 tackles for loss and 5½ sacks. His production obviously will be missed.
It would help matters greatly if Ferguson could enjoy a season of good health. The 6-foot-2, 230-pounder from New Orleans showed flashes last season. In addition to Ferguson, Nebraska has all kinds of body types at OLB, from Davis (6-5, 255 pounds) to Dixon (5-11, 205) to Tannor (6-2, 210) and others.
The Huskers hope Tannor can develop into a pass-rushing force. A four-star recruit from Miller Grove High School in Stone Mountain, Georgia, he possesses the sort of length and athleticism that coaches seek at the position. But his lack of bulk was obvious last season, especially in Big Ten play.
Dixon flashed last spring, but got lost in the shuffle during the fall. But he's definitely someone to keep an eye on this spring.
Another player to watch is JoJo Domann, who is capable of playing a variety of positions. He has the tools to be an excellent safety.
So, Nebraska will continue to search for disruptive OLBs. The program hasn't had a premier pass rusher since Randy Gregory in 2014.