Husker spring roster analysis: Defensive backs

Chris Jones, pictured, and fellow senior Joshua Kalu combined for four interceptions and 21 pass breakups last season.

The Nebraska football team will return to work on Tuesday after taking a week off from spring drills. With the Red-White Game looming on April 15, Mike Riley and his staff have only 20 more days before the curtain lifts on one of the country’s best-attended spring games.

Below is a breakdown of the defensive backs that Bob Elliott and Donte Williams have been working with this spring. You can also check out analysis on the quarterbacksrunning backswide receivers/tight endsoffensive linedefensive linelinebackers, and special teams.

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THE VETS

Plenty. Seniors Chris Jones and Joshua Kalu enter their third years as starters at corner. They will be among the most seasoned corners in the Big Ten. The duo combined for four interceptions and 21 pass breakups last season. While Kalu is getting what Riley calls a “look-see” at safety, he can also play nickel. The same is true for Aaron Williams, who takes over Nate Gerry’s old role at safety. Williams has been heralded as very smart by his new position coach, Elliott, and will likely be the quarterback of the defense for the next two seasons. Kieron Williams started at safety for most of last season, finishing with 69 tackles and five interceptions. Throw in safety Antonio Reed, and this is the most experienced position group on the team.

CALL FOR BACKUP

It’s pretty deep at safety, too. NU’s in good shape there, with Aaron Williams, Kieron Williams, Reed, JoJo Domann, Tony Butler, Avery Anderson and Marquel Dismuke. Only Kieron Williams is a senior. Domann has looked good early in practice. Cornerback depth is a little thin. Sophomore Lamar Jackson — the top recruit in NU’s 2016 class — could be the No. 3 corner if he can match practice habits to his considerable talent. Behind Jackson, there’s senior Boaz Joseph — mostly a special teams guy — along with Eric Lee and DiCaprio Bootle. Walk-on Jeremiah Stovall has received some reps, too.

WHO’S IN, WHO’S OUT

Nebraska lost its best player on defense, Gerry, who had 74 tackles and four interceptions. Gerry, as gifted as he was, never quite lived up to his promising sophomore season, especially when he was suspended for two games as a senior. NU will miss his playmaking skills. Among incoming freshmen, Elijah Blades, a lanky Californian, is the lone newcomer at cornerback.

PROVE-IT PLAYER

Reed. For one thing, he’s healthy, which helps — that wasn’t the case last spring. But here’s a guy who’s 6-2, 220 and fast enough to play safety. That kind of athleticism has to find a spot on the field, and Reed hasn’t consistently done so yet. Jackson, even more talented than Reed, should have a more consistent sophomore year.

SPRING THINGS

» Jones, Kalu, Aaron Williams, Kieron Williams, Reed, Domann and Jackson played as true freshmen.

» Domann and Anderson attended the same high school in Colorado Springs. And Kieron Williams attended the United States Air Force Academy prep school in Colorado Springs.

» Joseph has had four cornerbacks coaches — Terry Joseph, Charlton Warren, Brian Stewart and now Donte Williams.

Reporter - Nebraska athletics

Sam covers Nebraska football, recruiting, women's basketball and more for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @swmckewonOWH. Email: SMcKewon@owh.com

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