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Jan. 23, 2017

Defensive recruits

(Hello? ... is this thing on? ... mic check ... 1 ... 2? K. Let's roll, baby.) Welcome, Husker Nation, to another edition of the Carriker Chronicles. Full disclosure, my wife wanted me to shave for the show today. Now, I'm not one of those smooth talking journalists, no offense to smooth talking journalists; I'm just not one of them. I'm just a guy who's played football almost his entire life. So, here I am, unclean shaven and all. Sorry, babe, I'll get to it right after the show.

So, I want to break down the Husker Commits that we have at this point on the defensive side of the football, and I want to start with Avery Roberts. He is a four star, 6'1" 220lb linebacker commit, trying to be the first ever high school football player from the state of Delaware to come play football for the Huskers. He is unanimously a top 13 linebacker in the country enrolled, in Lincoln, on January 5th, so he will participate in Winter Conditioning and will participate in Spring Ball as well. Now, I do want to clear one thing up because the Nose guard position has received a lot of the publicity regarding the 3-4 defense. But you should know that it doesn't matter whether you're talking about the 3-4, the 4-3, Hockey, Volleyball, Basketball, the Defensive End position is ALWAYS the number one position (wink). But, in the 3-4 defense, the most important positon is the rushing outside linebacker followed by the other outside linebacker, and then the nose guard. We just have more of a need at the nose guard position at the moment. Avery Roberts might get a chance to play early in some situations. In high school, he had 7 sacks, was a full four-year starter; I've never heard of a guy starting the first game of his Freshman year- that's pretty impressive. He had over 80 tackles, 7 sacks, the 80th ranked prospect in the entire country. He's the highest ranked Husker commit on the defensive side of the football. I see him as a guy who can play early in some situations this year, whether it's Nickel, pass rushing downs, etc. He's a linebacker at the moment, I see him as a guy who can get to the edge and get after the quarterback.

Next up is Deiontae Watts. This guy is 6'3" 305 lbs 3 stars depending on which service you look at, the 31st ranked defensive tackle in the country, and he had offers from Oklahoma, USC, UCLA, Texas, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Tennessee, as well as others. Very highly recruited. He was a defensive end in high school. I see him as a defensive end in the 3-4 scheme, he's the perfect size. I could easily see them moving him inside to nose guard because he's so young. It wouldn't be that hard to do. I see him as a guy who could get some early playing time as a nose guard if they move him in because of our need at the position.

Next up, is Deontre Thomas. He is 6'3" 280 lbs, 3 stars as well. It came down to us and Michigan, and he chose the Huskers. WOO! It's always good to beat out Michigan. Now I've watced film of all these guys and after watching film of Deontre, he plays with good leverage, explosion, good field awareness, and he's a smart player. I also understand he works hard in the weight room. I think he'll be a really good fit at defensive end. I don't see them moving him inside or anything like that.

Next up is Willie Hampton. He's 6'1" 225 lbs, and 3 stars as well. He was the first commit of the 2017 Husker Class. As a linebacker, he ran his 40 in 4.53 seconds. He's long, he can run, solid at the point of attack. He didn't have a lot of offers, but I believe that's because he committed to Nebraska so early. He has the size and speed to possibly play early, it just depends on whether or not he is mentally ready. I see him as a linebacker.

Guy Thomas, who is 6'3" 202 lbs, 3 stars. He's listed as a strong side defensive end; I think that will change in the 3-4 defense. In the 3-4, I see him as more of an outside linebacker pass rusher type. He's long, speedy, and he's a great athlete. A lot of the top ACC/ SEC schools saw this and gave him offers. Schools such as Alabama. Very raw. Very athletic, but very raw. Probably needs to redshirt and beef up just a little bit in the weight room.

Last, but certainly not least, is Andrew Ward. 6'1" 200 lbs, 3 stars, ranked the 42nd best linebacker in the country, 2nd best player in the entire state of Michigan. He has some potential, he's a guy I'm sure probably needs to put on a little weight and redshirt.

Last week, on Wednesday, I talked about our defensive personnel and how it would fit the 3-4 defense. I also talked about a nose guard that may possible be committing on National Signing Day and we're one of the final schools. I had a fan hit me up and ask me what his name is! I said, watch the video, look at the transcript! I watched and looked, but I never said his name! So thank you for pointing that out to me. His name is Damion Daniels. Again, I talked about him last Wednesday, the 18th but I'll go into it a little more. He'll be committing on National Signing Day. He's 6'2" 310 lbs. I spoke about Avery Roberts a little more in that video as well, check it out if you haven't seen it.

He's a possibility at nose guard. Another possibility I've heard people throwing around is Jalin Barnett. He's currently enrolled at Nebraska and is a Sophomore. He's an offensive guard, one of the top guard recruits in the entire nation coming out of high school. An interesting factoid I read was that after his true freshman season, he redshirted and won the scout team player of the year award. I love when I read stuff like that about guys. He's 6'4" 310 lbs, and could possibly go to nose guard. Now, 6'4 is a little on the tall side for a 3-4 nose guard. When I think of 3-4 nose guards, I think of a Casey Hampton at 6'1". Vince Wilfork is tall at 6'2". But, I'll never forget, I played with a nose guard in DC, Barry Cofield. I texted him and asked him how tall he is, and he said 6'3" and he started for us. I texted my d-line coach from DC, Jacob Burney. I said, "Burney, how could Barry play nose guard and be a little taller and lighter?" Burney said "Barry had an ability to bend at the knees, not at his hips, but at his knees which allowed him to play like a 5'11"/ 6' guy." So, Jalin Barnett might be taller, but if he can bend at his knees and play a little bit lower with leverage, he might be able to make the transition to nose guard.

I'll never forget my first four years in the league with the Rams. Most people don't know this, but I started as a nose guard at 6'6" 290 lbs. I'll never forget, as soon as Coach Burney said this to me, I chuckled because I was reminded when Coach Haslet my Defensive Coordinator in St. Louis, said to me- I asked him "Why am I playing nose guard at 6'6" 290 lbs?" he said "Because you can bend at the knees, so you play like you're 6'/ 5'11"." I used to be a catcher in baseball, so maybe that carried over, but it's all about bending with your knees, playing low, and playing with leverage.

Funny story about Vince Wilfork. My wife is enamored by him. He's a large man listed at "325" -yeah right; she's enamored by how big he is and how well he moved. He's also been in the league for 13 years. He's 35 years old. So, when I'm watching him, and I'm watching my wife watch him, I'm thinking two things: Number 1, it is very impressive that a man that big at that age can move that well, and number 2, my wife sure watches him a lot. I might need to kick his ass ... I'm just kidding ... mostly.

But, I did read, because we don't have a nose guard yet per se, that the 3-4 defense under Diaco is a fairly flexible defense. He runs variations of the 4-2-5 as well, depending on the personnel he has, and we'll see what happens at Nebraska. When I think of a 4-2-5, I think of four defensive linemen, two line backers, and five defensive backs almost like a Nickel defense. We'll see what he does with the personnel here at Nebraska.

Now, there were six recruits here last Friday, including two 4 star cornerbacks; Elijah Blades, and Deommodore Lenoir. They're possibilities to commit to the Huskers in the near future as well. We have six defensive commits at the moment, 3 or 4 along the D line, 2 or 3 at the linebacker spot, depending on where everyone ends up. This is an offensive heavy recruiting class, I'll break that down on Wednesday. But, it does show how great of a hire John Parrella was because he brought in all these defensive lineman that we needed already. My take on this defensive recruiting class is that they are athletic guys with raw talent and speed, we have some possibilities at defensive end, at nose guard, some are outside linebacker/ passrusher types, potentially. Now, I didn't see a lot of big backers, big guys on the inside, and obviously no secondary. We'll see what happens with those guys from Friday and the guys who commit over the next ten days. A couple guys who I think could possibly contribute now (I mentioned them earlier) Avery Roberts as well as Dieontae Watts, and who knows? Somebody else could as well. Some of these guys I think are going to possibly take a year or two to grow, mature, possibly redshirt.

Overall, I think we got more athletic, not a lot of depth just with sheer numbers, or lack thereof, but I will say this; I'm going to be breaking down the offensive recruiting class on Wednesday (lots more players to talk about) and National Signing Day is only 10 days away. A lot can happen between now and then. In that time, I'm going to be talking about guys we're targeting who could possibly still commit over the next week- week and a half, because anything could happen up to and through National Signing Day. I'm excited. I love doing this, hope you guys at home can feel that.

Going forward, the Carriker Chronicles are now on our regular offseason schedule, every Monday, Wednesday, and Fast Friday. So this week, tune in Wednesday and on Fast Friday. Until Wednesday, Go Big Red, and always remember ... to THROW THE BONES!!!