Mike Dawson took off the baseball cap, a staple of practice attire for many college football coaches, and cocked his head.
“I had hair before spring prom and now it’s all gone,” he laughed.
The veteran coach, to be fair, didn’t actually start the spring ball rolling with a full head of lettuce on top, but the point came through loud and clear anyway.
It’s not always easy to work with a group of young and inexperienced posts.
That’s exactly what Dawson, the new defensive coach in charge of the Huskers’ inside defensive linemen and point players, has in the middle of the defensive line.
He will recover Casey Rogers from a knee injury over the summer, but Dawson and company have lost four defensive linemen from a 2021 veteran unit – Damion Daniels and Ben Stille to pursue the NFL, Jordon Riley to the transfer portal, and Deontre Thomas is gone, too – and they haven’t added any veterans to the mix through the transfer portal at this stage. These four have combined for nearly 1,300 snaps in 2021, according to figures from Pro Football Focus, which represents 66.7% of NU’s inside defensive line snaps.
People also read…
“It’s always a good thing and a bad thing, where you have guys who are maybe a little inexperienced but not a lot of numbers,” Dawson said of the spring ball so far. “So what happens eventually is they get a lot of reps. Now when they’re out there for a long time they’re more fatigued, so for them as players I’m sure ‘they would like a bit – not that they don’t want the reps – but maybe get a shot in between a bit more. For me as a trainer number 1 gets you more reps. rehearsals. You can show them more on film and, also, you like to know how the guys are going to behave when they’re tired. It’s a little more difficult than they would like, certainly. It’s been good as that.
It’s too early to make any bold claims about who might break through, but it’s clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Huskers need someone or someone to step up and do it quickly.
“No matter what defense you play in, no matter what league you play in, if you don’t have good defensive linemen, you’ll never be good on defense,” coordinator Erik Chinander said Monday. “I think these guys are very, very critical in your success no matter where you are, whether it’s high school, NFL, college, Big Ten, ACC, SEC, whatever. imported.”
Which brings up the key question Dawson and Chinander face this spring: beyond the two returning veterans, what production can NU count on from Newsom, Nash Hutmacher, Ru’Quan Buckley, Marquis Black, Jailen Weaver and Colton Feist?
“Obviously Nash got reps last year. Colton Feist got a lot of reps last year,” Chinander said. Marquis Blacks, Ru’Quan and Jailen – these are the guys we need to keep getting a little more profit moving forward.
“Mosai has been in the system the longest, so I think he’s the closest to getting in. But Ru’Quan is doing a lot of good things in training, Marquis Black is doing a lot of good things in training. training. Even guys like extras (Jacob) Herbek and (Ryan) Schommer, those guys have just come back (from injury). It’s really nice to get them back and see them working.
Newsom is encouraged by the work the group has done so far this spring.
” It went very well. The D line is really getting closer,” said the Iowa native, who arrived on campus around 260 pounds, has been battling injuries for the past two years and is now in the 295-pound range. “There are a few of us right now, but we’re all going out there and competing. Coach Dawson teaches us new things and it’s really good to learn and improve.
Many young players getting jobs, however, are a recipe for bad to mix with good.
“It’s a fine line because guys, they mean well, right? Nobody wants to do well more than the guy over there,” Dawson said. “It’s not like they go out there and say, ‘You know what, on this game, I think I’m going to do the exact opposite of what he told me to do. But sometimes it looks like that and it feels like that as a coach, like, ‘What in the world is going on? How can you do that after so much training? But it’s all a matter of habits.
Habits take time to build, and players willing to withstand the rigors of playing in the Big Ten trenches take even longer.
“So for the guys who are still a bit young in the process, Ru’Quan and Marquis and Jailen, those guys, they have to keep growing and they have to keep getting stronger and taking advantage of all the great things we have here,” Dawson said. “We talk about the great strength staff that we have, the great nutrition staff that we have, the guys in the training room are the best there is. …
“I think it’s not enough to expect the results right away and understand that there’s a process you’ll have to go through to be able to compete in this league.”
In today’s college game, it’s easy to assume that NU can fill any lack of depth up front with a portal player, but productive, high-level defensive linemen don’t push. on the trees. NU lost the transfer of Miami Nesta Jade-Silvera this winter and any player worthy of clichés in the Big Ten will attract substantial interest in the transfer market this spring.
“It’s hard to find guys in the trenches pre-transfer portal and it always is,” Dawson said. “I think finding great players who want to play and who are good enough to be physically there is a challenge. Then the portal brings a whole other list of challenges. When I started coaching I had a mentor who was like, “Hey, there’s no waiver wire in college football. These are the guys you have, you have to train them and make them better.” Well, now there’s a waiver wire and it’s called the portal. Some guys are rushing in and some guys are leaving and some guys are coming and you don’t know yet how this recruiting process is really going to go until we’ve gone through this whole whole cycle.
“It’s been crazy so far.”
Contact the author at [email protected] or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.