Nebraska’s depth in the secondary isn’t ideal at the moment.
Junior safety Deontai Williams had shoulder surgery and is out for the foreseeable future. Sophomore Cam Taylor-Britt will take his spot atop the depth chart going forward, but among his strengths is versatility, so NU is loath to lock him into one position for the long haul.
Travis Fisher has rotated Eric Lee Jr., Taylor-Britt and walk-on Eli Sullivan in alongside junior starter Marquel Dismuke over the past game-plus since Williams got hurt.
On the perimeter, redshirt freshman Braxton Clark and freshman Quinton Newsome are up next on the depth chart after regular starters Dicaprio Bootle and Lamar Jackson.
Those are OK numbers in ideal situations, but football games rarely play out in ideal ways.
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“With Deontai going down, it’s a little thin in the back end, especially with a couple of those guys – Lamar had some cramping issues I think and Marquel went down for a series,” defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said of last weekend’s loss to Colorado. “The issue is you’re cross-training guys to play so many positions and I don’t know if that has a little bit to do with it, not knowing exactly what to do at crucial moments in the game, but we’ve got to get that fixed. I’ve got to find a way.”
Among the potential answers as the season goes along are the group of four true freshmen on the roster. Newsome is the only who’s been on the two-deep so far, but Noa Pola-Gates traveled to Boulder and made his debut by playing on NU’s kickoff team in the second half, and Myles Farmer made the trip, too, after missing a big chunk of camp with an undisclosed injury.
Can they be part of the depth conversation as the season goes along?
“I think there are a couple of guys that are really close – fundamentally, skill-wise, talent-wise they’re ready – they’ve just got to be able to execute when we get into team periods. We’ve got to see it.
“It’s easy to say, ‘heck, put those guys in the game, you say they’re really good.’ Well, they are really good, but we’ve got to be able to trust them on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday before we can put them in the game on Saturday.”