Welcome to the Morning Mash, a daily breakdown of the Nebraska athletics stories to know and whatever else interests us along the way.
Help! They need somebody. Help! Not just anybody.
Stress that last line of the tune as you consider Nebraska’s defensive line portal pursuits in the days ahead.
And those pursuits are plenty active as I type, with Husker247 confirming Nebraska is hosting Texas Tech transfer Devin Drew this weekend. We’ll fill in a few blanks on Drew in a second, but first a quote from Husker defensive front coach Mike Dawson I’ve put in print before but will again because it’s worth reminding. “I think it’s hard to find guys in the trenches pre-transfer portal, and it’s still, finding big guys that want to play and are good enough to be physically there I think is a challenge,” he said this spring.
That’s the “Not just anybody” part of this equation.
That’s way easier said than done when it comes to defensive linemen and O-linemen, which is what Dawson’s quote is reminding. It’s not exactly an easy position for someone to just roll in, and there are past examples that are easy to give regarding Nebraska football and D-line transfers who didn’t make a dent once here. We won’t name names but you can recall and don’t have to go searching too far back.
With that as the precursor, Drew is a pretty good defensive lineman to get in town for a visit because he has more of a resume than some who have not worked out. At 6-2, 280 pounds, he had 55 tackles over two seasons for the Red Raiders, including 34 last year. He played in all of their games the past couple years, a regular part of their rotation. A native of the Kansas City area who also traveled through the Iowa Western program for two seasons, Drew has also taken an official visit to Illinois recently.
This one is posted in a lighthearted tone, which needs qualifying since D-line talk is serious business around here right now. But a fun little detail not lost on those who eat up every kernel of Husker information on the Internet is that the Husker hoopster McGowens is a longtime friend of another portal D-lineman, Stephon Wynn out of Alabama.
– Trey McGowens 3rd (@ Trey5mac_) April 21, 2022
Wynn was a top prospect in the 2018 class but has mostly been a reserve at powerhouse Alabama. A redshirt senior, he appeared in 21 games in his four seasons and recorded a combined 13 tackles. He played in seven games as a reserve this past season and tallied seven tackles.
McGowens, who has his own announcement to make about what his next year looks like, just wanted to do his part and told “Husker Nation to go show my boy some love” to Wynn, which Nebraska fans of course did.
All these guys in the trenches coming from big programs, no matter what they’ve done previously, will get plenty of love. That’s why it makes it so hard to come out on top with that guy who ends up being that true difference maker, or even solid rep taker for that matter, because there are only so many of them and everyone wants them.
As for Wynn, the hoops / trenches links don’t end there. Devin Drew attended the same Raytown High School as Nebraska super senior basketball player Derrick Walker did for most of his high school career.
Just some fun facts there, nothing more.
While Ochaun Mathis is supposed to offer a decision possibly before this month ends, one addition on the interior is a necessity it seems and a couple would be better.
Ty Robinson would probably agree. So would those middle backers like Luke Reimer and Nick Henrich who feasted last year in tackless, and always gave a nod to the work Damion Daniels in front of them. That also reminds not to get totally consumed by just the stats when analyzing D-line transfer guys, because sometimes their work involves setting up others.
But back to Robinson. He acknowledged at the end of spring he was feeling like he was a 35-year-old man after logging all those snaps in the spring with a thin group. Nebraska is now down to seven scholarship D-linemen, though when you hear that number factor in that doesn’t include the edge rushers who like Garrett Nelson, Caleb Tannor, Jimari Butler and Blaise Gunnerson who all are part of that operation. Still, when it comes to the guts of it, more guts are needed.
“I can definitely tell you what it feels like to be old now, I can tell you that much,” Robinson said near spring’s end. He added that picking up a couple more bodies “would take a load off some of the guys. I can say that most of us have over 400 game live reps this spring ball … but we all made it through, so it shows us what we can do. “
Again, he wasn’t panicked, nor was Feist talking about the D-line at spring’s end. But that was prior to the Casey Rogers’ departure too.
OK, what about Casey Rogers?
He had a social media post about entering the portal that was hopeful of all doors being open – which one would take to mean the Nebraska situation wasn’t completely shut down as he peruses his options.
But he has plenty of materializing options, which goes back to the point that guys with any sort of resume at all in the trenches are scrambled to like the break room at a work place when it’s announced free donuts are in there. Except nothing in the portal that you really need is probably free in the NIL era, is it? So that analogy only goes so far.
Rogers is definitely getting that attention, however. He has already reported offers from Arkansas, USC, Washington, Auburn, Oregon State and TCU.
For those downplaying the Rogers news, I can understand the sentiment based off somewhat limited data so far (the shortened 2020 season mostly), but would also say on certain weeks he was one of the best D-linemen in 2020 and basically had much of his 2021 impacted by injury.
The question is going to be if he takes what he was doing in 2020 as a platform to jump off to the next level, which is certainly possible and was something I thought was going to be important for this Nebraska team to have happen. The offer list he already has tells you enough about his value as a player programs would gladly take and see if he can make that jump, or at least be a strong depth piece while attempting to do so.
And, as we point out every year when we do our Most Indispensable Huskers list, it’s as much about what you don’t have or don’t know about the guys behind him on the depth chart that added to his value.
The move by Rogers caught me more off guard than most portal moves, although nothing is shocking at all any more in this landscape.
Dawson was complimentary about Rogers staying involved in the spring even while injured. Although he highlighted Ty Robinson and Colton Feist as maybe leading the way in the D-line, he mentioned Rogers during that interview too.
“Ty does a pretty good job of being vocal. Colton Feist is a guy that has been along for a long time. He’s another one that when he talks, they listen. I think those are two that have probably emerged,” Dawson said then. . “Casey Rogers isn’t on the field right now but he’s certainly someone in the meeting room and in the weight room that is in these guys’ ears all the time. Casey’s done a nice job. It’s hard when you’re injured.”
Nebraska at the moment seems in a pickle without at least a couple additions because guys like Marquis Black, Ru’Quan Buckley and Jailen Weaver (and probably still Nash Hutmacher to some degree) are maybe a year or so away from when you’d expect them to burst down a door.
I think of a guy like Damion Daniels, who started to take off in 2020, and definitely even more so last year. But it took about three years of building to be a Big Ten lineman.
As Dawson himself said in the spring, “You look at the Big Ten linemen – offensively and defensively – generally they’re older guys that are playing. It’s just such a big, strong physical league. So guys that are still kind of young in The process … those guys, they got to continue to develop, they got to continue to get stronger. They got to take advantage of all the awesome stuff that we have here.
“We talk about what a great strength staff we have, what a great nutrition staff we have, the guys in the training room are the best there are. So they have all those things at their disposal and then they can’t get bored of And then all of a sudden you turn around and you go, ‘Oh, I got a lot stronger, I got a lot faster,’ but it doesn’t happen overnight. “
To that last part, can it this one time? Asking on behalf of some friends.
And if you want to be upbeat to finish it off, Nebraska’s DBs are an example of a group that looked like it could be thin at fall’s end and then suddenly wasn’t over the span of several weeks of additions that have so far been what coaches have hoped. So grab a donut from the break room and wait it out because that program roster in September isn’t filled out yet.