Will Honas wasn't ready to call the torn ACL he suffered last season a blessing in disguise. But now, with another year in Nebraska's system and another year of eligibility, the junior inside linebacker is ready to put the past behind him.
"Year 2 is definitely a big jump, just from seeing everybody play and seeing myself play," Honas said Tuesday. "There's always things you can fix, whether it's technique or just knowing the scheme. It makes it a lot easier the more you know it, and you can play faster the more you know it."
After coming to Nebraska as a heralded recruit as the top-ranked junior college linebacker in the country, Honas played four games last season before suffering a torn ACL against Purdue in Nebraska's fourth game of the season.
Recovery was tough, he admitted. One of the biggest challenges he had was to stay positive through rehab. Finally, over the summer he was cleared medically and able to return fully to workouts.
"It's kind of like taking the training wheels off. You've got to learn to run again, almost, when you go through a major injury," Honas said. "So it took a little bit, but I'm feeling good now."
Honas had a team-best nine tackles against Colorado, his most in a Nebraska uniform. That comes with the comfort of being familiar with Nebraska's scheme.
"I'd probably say just with run fits, it's really important to hit your gap fast," Honas said. "And when you really understand what's going on and you understand what everybody else is doing, it really helps free you up and allow you to play fast."
Reimer chasing dream: Luke Reimer is the first to admit he has a long way to go. But the freshman walk-on linebacker, after getting his first taste of college football against Colorado, also realizes he is another step closer to his dream.
The Lincoln North Star product said coaches told him in fall camp he would play at least four games this season depending on how his rehab went from a preseason knee injury, and if he was healthy, the coaches would get him on the field when they could.
"That's when I first realized I wasn't going to redshirt," Reimer said Tuesday.
Asked if he's thought about the possibility of someday earning a scholarship after a strong start to his career, Reimer was honest in assessing himself as well as his future with NU.
"A little bit, but that was my goal from the start was to get on scholarship. Definitely, it's now becoming more and more real to me," Reimer said. "I’m still not where I need to be, and have a lot of work to do to get to where (the older players) are. It’s just years of progress. They’re upperclassmen, they’ve been in this system for a while, so that’s just what I look forward to being like when I’m an upperclassman, just knowing all the ins and outs of the defense and what’s going on."
Domann’s role not changing much: JoJo Domann is now listed as a starting “nickel” on the NU depth chart, the only player listed at the position, which was added for the first time this week.
Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said Domann, a junior outside linebacker, could potentially play in the slot a little bit more depending on where Cam Taylor-Britt, now a starting safety, and others are lined up, but his role isn’t really going to change much.
“You won’t notice him doing much (different),” Chinander said. “He plays in base for us and he’s a nickel for us. But he’s going to be a starter in the package, so we wanted to list him on the depth chart.”
Launch point: Although Nebraska outside linebackers have combined for just one sack through two games, Husker assistant coach Jovan Dewitt said he feels the group has consistently applied pressure on quarterbacks.
“I think a lot of people had a pause of concern for whether we could affect the quarterback, and I think we’re doing a consistent job of affecting the quarterback’s launching point,” said Dewitt, who coaches the OLBs. “We’re forcing him to get out of the pocket. Even if we’re not getting a sack, if we can affect the quarterback and his throwing mechanics and get him off his normal launch spot, I think we’ve done a good job.
“If we can draw a holding call here and there, to me that’s almost as good as getting a sack.”
Nebraska sophomore Caleb Tannor has the OLBs’ lone sack, against Colorado’s Steven Montez.
Doubling down: Although his stats don’t jump off the page, Nebraska senior outside linebacker Alex Davis is off to a strong start in his senior season, Dewitt said.
“I think he’s really shown up the first two weeks. I really do,” the coach said. “I’m proud of him and his effort. The thing about Alex, he doubles down on his effort. The more success he has, the harder he works. It’s not that he never worked hard before, but now he’s all-in and it’s awesome to see.
“It’s nice to see him having the success he deserves.”
Against Colorado, Davis recorded two tackles — both for losses.
Unflappable: Nebraska secondary coach Travis Fisher provided a healthy list of reasons why Cam Taylor-Britt’s move to safety on this week’s depth chart should be a smooth one for the 6-foot, 215-pound sophomore.
“He can tackle, No. 1. He’s very physical,” Fisher said. “He’s got great ball skills. He can run. He can change directions, and he’s smart.”
A native of Montgomery, Alabama, Taylor-Britt recorded five tackles Saturday against Colorado. However, on CU’s fourth-quarter flea-flicker that went 96 yards for a touchdown, Taylor-Britt allowed receiver K.D. Nixon to sprint past him as Taylor-Britt bit on the run fake.
Later in the quarter, however Taylor-Britt caught Laviska Shenault from behind and forced the CU speedster to fumble at the end of a 54-yard kickoff return.
“Cam answers to his mistakes really well and doesn’t get flustered,” Fisher said. “That’s what you want out of a football player because, hey, they make mistakes in pro football. It’s all about how you answer.”