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 defensive line.
Departed: Freedom Akinmoladun, Mick Stoltenberg, Peyton Newell, Matt Jarzynka.
Returning players: Khalil Davis, Carlos Davis, DaiShon Neal, Ben Stille, Damion Daniels, Deontre Thomas, Vaha Vainuku, Fyn Anderson, Chris Walker, Ben Lingenfelter, Casey Rogers, Tate Wildeman, Damian Jackson.
Incoming players: Darrion Daniels (grad transfer), Brant Banks (freshman).
2018 statistical leaders: Khalil Davis 41 tackles (three sacks), Carlos Davis 27 tackles (three TFLs), Stille 25 tackles (five sacks), Daniels 12 tackles (one TFL).
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Overview: In the second year of the Scott Frost era, there should be progress in a lot of areas and from a lot of players. That's usually how it works for teams.
There's a few reasons for that, including this:
"It was like they had to learn a new language (last season),” said Mike Dawson, who coached Nebraska's defensive linemen in 2018 before recently accepting a job as outside linebackers coach for the New York Giants. “Last season it was like, ‘What are these new words you’re saying?’ Now they know what the new words are and they can really start to understand what they mean and how it affects not only them, but guys around them.”
This will be an interesting spring for Nebraska's defensive linemen as they begin the process of learning under Tony Tuioti, who on Tuesday was officially named as Dawson's replacement. The 42-year-old Tuioti spent the past two seasons at Cal.
In addition to Tuioti, another new face will garner plenty of attention in coming weeks: Darrion Daniels, the graduate transfer defensive tackle from Oklahoma State. He told the Journal Star recently that he knows at least one way he can help the Huskers in 2019.
"One thing I’ve been told I’m good at and I know I’m good at is raising the level of competition," he said. "I’m passionate when I play and it’s contagious. I also have experience playing everywhere on the defensive line, so wherever I’m needed is where I’ll be more than willing to contribute."
"He brings a lot to the table," said Darrion's younger brother, Damion Daniels, a Husker sophomore-to-be. "He's a guy we can hold accountable to get things done. He could play everything from nose tackle to end just like Carlos (Davis) and Khalil (Davis)."