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Loss of Apathetic Defensive Tackle Duo Leaves Plenty of Questions to be Answered as Nebraska Wraps Up Spring Practice

Kevin Williams

Kevin Williams

When former Nebraska defensive tackles Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine made their intentions to enter the NFL Draft known, it wasn’t a total shock. Losing two more bodies in Greg McMullen and Kevin Williams at the end of spring may seem like an even bigger blow, but whether or not Nebraska lost true athletes at the position is questionable.

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Related: Nebraska Cornhuskers 2016 Spring Practice Positional Preview — Defensive Line

Williams had a history of injury during his days as a Cornhusker, missing both the 2011 and ‘13 seasons because of knee problems. He started two games for the Big Red in 2015, but issues with his groin plagued that campaign.

He also suffered dings and dents to a wrist this spring. Whether or not Williams could be counted on to actually give the Huskers a full year of production was a coin flip at best.

We also caught a glimpse of his true colors when he decided to tee off on former Nebraska defensive tackle Jason Peter. Williams responded to a tweet of Peter's criticizing of defensive line loafers with one of his own stating "i don't wanna be like you. i don't wanna be a druggie and have to worry about relapsing every time I see a needle." This isn't a player that Nebraska needs on its roster and, quite frankly, any coach worth their salt should be very wary about such questionable character. 

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McMullen’s departure is very much an enigma. Following this year’s Spring Game, head coach Mike Riley said that he “is going to work with youth in our area.” What’s curious is that with new defensive line coach John Parella and McMullen looking the part of a potentially truly dominant Big Ten defensive tackle, why leave now?

He’d have every opportunity to be a leader in his senior year, but to walk away following a productive spring suggests doubts about having a true passion for the game. Apathy can’t be part of a team, let alone someone in the trenches.

This leaves Nebraska four defensive tackles short, all of whom had eligibility remaining. However, just because you can play the game of football doesn’t mean you should, at least not wearing the colors you currently are.

The players that remain have clearly bought into what Riley and the newly-hired Parella are selling. What will determine just how big of an impact these personnel losses are is how the remaining big men in the middle attack their summer regimens and if they show up to fall camp as hungry as Parella was and is.

Twin brothers Carlos and Khalil Davis have had their own personal spotlight ever since waltzing in from Blue Springs, Mo. Ideally, they’d be set up to be fully unleashed on a conference known for its black and blue reputation as redshirt sophomores, but there’s no time for holding back now. Fortunately, they have the athleticism and talent to be thrown into the fire and bounce back from any lumps they may take rather well.

Kevin Maurice and Mick Stoltenberg provide Nebraska with a pair that is at the very least serviceable today, let alone later on this year. Peyton Newell showed improvement this spring and Giltner, Neb., senior Logan Rath is going to need to be this year’s Jack Gangwish. Rath must be the home state boy with a mean streak and a passion for wearing an “N” on the side of his helmet to help fuel his gridiron rage.

The good news is that these young men have one of the best strength and conditioning programs in the nation led by Mark Philipp to mold them into what they need to be once September rolls around.

Just in case, the defensive line may want to start sitting down for chow with the linebackers after passing through the training table. The second line of defense for the Blackshirts is going to be the front four’s best friend.

Time for defensive coordinator Mark Banker to get creative with his blitzes.

— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to like his Facebook page follow him on Twitter (@eightlaces) and on Periscope (eightlaces).