Red-White Spring Game 2017

Cornerbacks coach Donté Williams (L) gives direction to defensive backs, including Jackson Lamar (1) and Chris Jones (8), during Red-White Spring Game at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

They're bigger, faster, stronger. I know, I know. You hear that about every football team every year at this time. I once wrote a story in August of 2007 about that Husker team breaking huddles during fall camp saying the words "national championship." Ummmmmm, yeah. (Cringing while producing the link showing proof.)

So, any skepticism that may be out there is understood when a player speaks of improved team chemistry and guys going harder than ever.

But you'd also be a touch alarmed if you didn't hear that talk coming out of Husker camp about right now, wouldn't you? A fan base, after all, wants players to see changes around them and at least think things are on the rise.

Nebraska sophomore cornerback Lamar Jackson does.

He said a lot of interesting things about his personal journey over the past year in our half-hour conversation this week, which will be detailed in a story in Sunday's paper. We also got to talking about the leadership he's seen emerge this summer.

He believes guys are prepared to speak up to each other when necessary. He's trying to do so himself even though he's just in his second year.

"I feel like coaches are also demanding it," Jackson said, bringing up Husker defensive coordinator Bob Diaco in particular. "I know for a defense, anything we do: lifts, runs, even just meetings, he demands the safeties to talk, to lead. He stresses safeties are an important position, they need to be vocal. ...  no matter who you are. 'That's your job. That's what you're going to have to do. So get used to it.'"

The same has been asked of Jackson, who figures to enter fall camp as the top corner opposite senior Chris Jones.

The sophomore noted that Husker cornerbacks coach Donte Williams recently told Jones, "Help Lamar. I need him to start talking."

Jackson said Williams sat him down and challenged him with the same message, pointing out he'd be one of the most experienced guys in the secondary by the time 2018 arrives.

You're a starter now. Starters need to be able to talk out there. "He said, Start talking now. So when January or whenever the other kids get here, it's not something new.'"

Jones and Jackson make an interesting combo at the corner spots. Jones is from Florida, Jackson from California, and both have very different personalities in Jackson's mind.

Jackson acknowledges, "I'm more social. I like to be out there. I want people to see me. I want to be the loudest in the room. That's just who I am."

Bonding didn't come overnight.

But ever since Joshua Kalu's move to safety in the spring, which in turn moved Jackson to the top boundary corner spot, he feels his relationship with Jones ("CJ" as he calls him) has really grown.

"Now that I'm the guy (at my spot), at the end of the day, my play reflects on him," Jackson said. "If I'm the weak link, they're going to attack me and CJ isn't going to get plays (his way). I know that. So now we're as close as ever. We're doing extra work after. ... Live in the same apartment. We're close. We're getting better together."

Take it for summer talk if you will, but Jackson thinks there's "something that's different that wasn't there before" with how he and his teammates have been pushing in these recent offseason months.

And sometimes loud voices aren't necessary if the work is being done right.

"A couple different guys take control once in a while, but everybody just feeds off each other," Jackson said. "Like the DBs, we're working, we're seeing each other sweating, so there ain't too much to say then besides, 'Get off your knees. Come on.' There's not really too much to say. Honestly, you can just feel it. Everybody's getting better. Everybody's working."

Reach the writer at bchristopherson@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.


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