Nebraska Cornhuskers 2020 Spring Practice Positional Preview: Defensive Backs

Dicaprio Bootle and the rest of the Huskers' secondary hope to take a step forward this season

Travis Fisher has proven to be one of the Nebraska Cornhuskers’ best assistant coaches. Not only has he been able to provide Scott Frost with improved defensive backs, but he’s also helped reel in some of the biggest fish in the Huskers’ most recent recruiting classes.

 

His third year in Lincoln provides him one of his stiffest challenges yet. Let’s review how Fisher’s charges performed last season and what we can look forward to through April.

 

2019 Summary

 

Last season, we saw the completion of Lamar Jackson’s rebound from being benched in 2018 to becoming a full-fledged leader. The likely NFL draft pick rose to the challenge on several occasions with a physicality not yet seen over the course of his career. He led the team in passes defended (12) and bested all defensive backs in fumbles forced (2).

 

Cam Taylor-Britt burst onto the scene as a sophomore to lead all secondary members with 49 tackles (29 solo). He also managed three tackles for loss, including 1.5 sacks, and tied Jackson in interceptions with a trio. Unlike Jackson, Taylor-Britt managed a pick-six during the course of the season.

 

He also showed the versatility desired by Fisher by not only thriving at the nickel spot but also playing in relief of Deontai Williams at safety and taking over for a struggling Dicaprio Bootle at cornerback at times.

 

Nebraska’s safety play was somewhat hit or miss. After losing Williams for most of the season due to injury in the first game of the year, Fisher did his best to mix and match opposite Marquel Dismuke.

 

It didn’t help that while the secondary was working to find a rhythm, the front seven often struggled versus the run stressing the needs of defensive backs even further.

 

However, walk-on Eli Sullivan did impress at times often displaying a great measure of tenacity.

 

Key Departures: Lamar Jackson

 

Key Returnees for 2020: CBs Dicaprio Bootle (Sr.), Cam Taylor-Britt (Jr.); Safeties Marquel Dismuke (Sr.), Deontai Williams (Sr.)

 

2020 Outlook

 

Replacing the departing Jackson won’t be easy, but if Nebraska fans can get excited about any defensive unit, the secondary is where to find positives.

 

After a bit of a dip during his junior year, Bootle has an opportunity for a similar redemption story. It certainly wouldn’t be a shock to see Taylor-Britt reprise his role as a starting cornerback.

 

However, Fisher has to be at least somewhat tempted to find another participant to test in that role so that he might be able to feature Taylor-Britt at nickel yet again. Getting as much talent on the field is crucial this year while the front seven finds its bearings.

 

Dismuke should only benefit from his 12 games of starting experience while Williams gets another chance to display his hard-hitting ways. Look for Sullivan to also get ample opportunities to show what he flashed in ‘19 wasn’t a fluke.

 

Position Grade for 2019: B+

 

— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, FWAA member and part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow him on Twitter (@eightlaces). To contact him, click here.

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