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We wrap-up our spring positional recaps today by giving our final take on Nebraska’s safeties.

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Sixth-year senior Deontai Williams.
Sixth-year senior Deontai Williams. (Tyler Krecklow)

WHAT WE LEARNED: Williams and Dismuke will help lead this defense 

When you talk about leadership on Nebraska’s veteran defense heading into the 2021 season, it’s hard not to start with the safety position.

Seniors Marquel Dismuke and Deontai Williams both came back for a sixth season in 2021. Over the last two years, Dismuke has played 1,312 snaps at safety, while Williams has seen 777 snaps from 2018 to 2020, including 519 this past season.

Both of these guys came back for unfinished business. Neither Dismuke nor Williams liked the way last season ended, especially the decision not to play in a bowl game, which was a vote driven by many players that ended up leaving the program.

Travis Fisher almost looks at Williams and Dismuke as coaches on the field. Both will be in their fourth year in this defense, and with them coming back, it completely changes the back end in 2021 and it allows others one more year to grow and mature in the system.

Third-year freshman Noa Pola-Gates.
Third-year freshman Noa Pola-Gates. (Sean Callahan)

BIGGEST SPRING CONCERN: How ready is the next group? 

Williams and Dismuke are the starters, but what about after them?

Right now Myles Farmer would be the next man up, with Isaac Gifford and Noa Pola-Gates right there as well. Farmer saw 89 snaps of action in 2020.

During the spring Fisher gave these three players a lot of reps with the top unit, and he referred to them as his 1.5 group.

Fisher knows getting Williams and Dismuke back was a luxury, but at the same time, he also knows he has to get the other three ready for the future.

SPRING SURPRISE: Gifford’s long-term outlook 

I think people forget that when Isaac Gifford signed with Nebraska, he was forced to walk-on for one semester before going on scholarship.

He was regarded as a guy they wanted in the program but didn’t quite know his long-term outlook.

During testing before spring practice, Gifford had a 37-inch vertical, which ranked third on the team. That tells you the type of explosion and the overall athletic ability he possesses.

His long-term outlook appears to be the successor to JoJo Domann as a hybrid safety/linebacker. Just like Domann, Gifford has shown the ability to play in and out of the box.

Omaha Westside's Koby Bretz is the only new face joining the safety room after the spring.
Omaha Westside’s Koby Bretz is the only new face joining the safety room after the spring. (Nate Clouse)

LOOKING AHEAD: Bretz will join the group in June

There will not be a lot of new movement in the safety room after spring practice, other than Omaha Westside incoming freshman Koby Bretz.

When you look at Bretz’s size and athletic ability, he’s got a chance to be a very good player in the program.

It will be interesting to see if he can put himself in the conversation as a freshman on special teams, and how he fits into the overall discussion this August.