Nebraska Cornhuskers 2023 Spring Practice Positional Preview: Linebackers/Edge Rushers


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Brandon Cavanaugh, Writer

If Nebraska fans like their spring football extra salty, there’s arguably no better serving on this year’s menu than new assistant coach Rob Dvoracek’s charges. And as an extra helping of sodium chloride, the Huskers’ edge players will no doubt receive instruction from several coaches across the board.

Most tantalizing about this group is a lack of actual position in Tony White’s 3-3-5 defense. Yes, there are technical assignments on the roster, but their abilities trump all. And you can expect several of these names to cover large swaths of the field over the next month-plus as they lay the framework for 2023.

2022 Summary

Last season saw Luke Reimer top the tackle chart with 86 (38 solo), but several names that won’t be a part of this fall’s roster dot the top 10. Michigan transfer Ernest Hausmann checks in at sixth (54 total) while Garrett Nelson, Ochaun Mathis, and Caleb Tannor tallied 65, 48, and 43, respectively. Nelson’s exit is especially unfortunate, as he’ll no doubt be one of the biggest “what if” scenarios of the upcoming season.

Both the Big Red’s tackles for a loss and sack numbers also are impacted by these absences. Mathis, Nelson, and Tannor combined for 20 TFL (one-third percent of Nebraska’s total) while racking up 11.5 sacks, (55 percent).

Linebacker Departures: Eteva Mauga-Clements, Ernest Hausmann, Chris Kolarevic

Edge Departures: Caleb Tannor, Ochaun Mathis, Garrett Nelson, Pheldarius Payne

Linebacker Key Returnees for 2023: Luke Reimer, Nick Henrich, Garrett Snodgrass, Seth Malcom, Randolph Kpai, Mikai Gbayor

Edge Key Returnees for 2023: Blaise Gunnerson, Jimari Butler, Jake Appleget

Linebacker Additions: MJ Sherman (Georgia transfer), Chief Borders (Florida transfer), Dylan Rogers, Eric Fields

Edge Additions: None

2023 Outlook

March and April will be all about building depth, as Luke Reimer should see a limited snap share while Nick Henrich is on the shelf nursing a prior injury. While this isn’t optimal for building on-field chemistry, it affords those lower in the current pecking order a chance to improve their standing.

That news should provide a thrill with several incoming additions touting a laundry list of impressive skills. MJ Sherman and Chief Borders have already received a great deal of fanfare, while Eric Fields’ name has been floated as a potential steal of the 2023 recruiting class. Dylan Rogers steps onto campus in the fall when the Cypress, Texas, native gets his own chance to impress.

Matt Rhule has been especially complimentary of Borders as winter conditioning wrapped up. “He’s elite in the community, and he gives back to people. Here’s one thing I know — wherever Chief ends up on a given day, that place will be better for him having been there.”

Arguably the most curious edge rusher this spring is Jimari Butler. After briefly testing the early transfer portal waters, he withdrew his name two days after Rhule was hired. Nebraska’s new head coach made a concerted effort to get to know Butler, including sitting down for a meal with both him and tight end Thomas Fidone.

Gunnerson and Appleget both have the potential to make noise, but the biggest challenge will be busting through an already stacked list now battling for playing time.