DiCaprio Bootle

DiCaprio Bootle likes what he sees from the young guns

DiCaprio Bootle likes what he sees from the young guns.

So much so, he keeps finding himself on the sideline making noises to himself.

“I might see them flash a little something and I’m like, ‘Oooh. Oooh,’ ” Bootle said. “Like, the other day Quinton Newsome came out of a break real good and broke up a ball, and we all went crazy, and I was like ‘Oooh, yeah, he’s got some good feet.’ Javin Wright picked off the ball the other day at practice; I’m like, ‘Oooh, he’s good.’ Noa Pola-Gates had an interception. Myles Farmer, sticking his head in there. So all those guys they can play.”

Bootle said he’s already noticed the defensive backs room is closer than it was last year. Starting 0-6 last season changed people, Bootle said. And he and the rest of the defense wear the 4-2 finish proudly.

“I think we’re more cohesive as a unit,” Bootle said. “We relate better. We trust each other more just with years of experience and going through last year and us being 0-6 and just seeing everyone’s true colors when you’re losing. A lot of people done changed.”

Linebacker Miller making early camp impression

Even the topics Collin Miller can discuss are different.

The Nebraska junior laughs at the difference a year can make. Last August he was a linebacker bouncing between inside and outside duties while learning yet another new defensive scheme. Now entrenched at an inside spot, he can give detailed breakdowns about why Luke Reimer, Jackson Hannah and Garrett Snodgrass are “by far” the best freshmen workers he’s ever seen at the position.

“Coming out last year, I wasn’t too comfortable,” Miller said. “(I) wasn’t feeling like I was too fit in.”

Shadowing All-Big Ten performer Mohamed Barry in the offseason has helped. So has working with position coach Barrett Ruud, who emphasizes the physical details — like footwork, hands and lateral movement — that can make all the difference. Miller continues to compete with now-healthy Will Honas for the second inside starting job.

Chinander, unsolicited, named Miller among the players whose physical development has most impressed him. There’s explosiveness and a better understanding of the scheme from the 6-foot-3, 245-pounder who made a career-high 17 tackles and was a special-teams contributor last year.

Said Chinander: “He looks bigger and stronger and faster.”

Healthy Honas getting back in mix at linebacker

Will Honas

“I feel 100 percent, for sure,” said Honas, who tore his ACL in the fourth game of NU’s 2018 season and has been cleared for contact.

Honas, an inside linebacker, isn’t a Husker of many words, but, at this point in his career, just a few words matter most.

“I feel 100 percent, for sure,” said Honas, who tore his ACL in the fourth game of NU’s 2018 season and was cleared for contact toward the end of spring camp.

Now Honas, a much-coveted junior college recruit in 2018, is back to battling for as much playing time as possible. He’s rotating snaps with Barry and Miller. Barry is a shoo-in to start, and Miller, by all accounts, has had a fast start to camp.

“I feel like I can improve on everything, whether that’s my fits in the run, my pass coverage,” Honas said. “I’ll never be satisfied where I’m at.”

Barry, Miller and Honas are learning the Mike and Will positions simultaneously to better learn the defense. They have slightly different responsibilities, but each, Miller said, has the same amount of pass coverage attached to it.

“We watch film like it’s TV,” said Miller, who prefers the Mike spot, where Dedrick Young mostly played last season. Barry played the Will, “where all you gotta do, basically, is ‘see ball, get ball,’” Miller said. Position coach Barrett Ruud coaches them on footwork and how they strike blockers.

In the run defense, Honas said, true nose tackle Darrion Daniels “takes up a lot of space” and helps keep blockers off of the inside linebackers.

“He not only can plug his gap, but he can move,” Honas said.

OLB Davis’ progress notable during camp

Jovan Dewitt, the outside linebackers coach, praised the early camp performance of senior Alex Davis, who played in 12 games (four starts) last year but totaled just five tackles.

“I’ll be extremely disappointed if we don’t see a really huge output from Alex Davis, from ‘Ace,’” Dewitt said. “I think he has progressed as far as anybody I’ve ever seen.”

Dewitt said sophomore Caleb Tannor has set himself apart with an ability to run that is different from everyone else at the position. Senior Tyrin Ferguson is also healthy and active through the first few practices.

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Dewitt feels good about competition at punter

Special teams evaluations are coming at “all positions,” said Dewitt, who also coordinates the unit. That includes punter, where incumbent and senior walk-on Isaac Armstrong will compete with Michigan State transfer and redshirt freshman William Przystup.

“I don’t anticipate either of them getting rattled with any form of competition on the field or off the field,” Dewitt said. “I feel good about those two battling it out throughout camp. Isaac knows he’s going to have to perform if he wants to maintain being the starter.”

NU measures hang time, distance and placement of every kick punters make before, during and after practice, Dewitt said, in order to have a “true analytic discussion” about the best option.

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Chris Heady covers Husker football and is the Nebraska men's basketball beat writer. He started at The World-Herald in 2017. Follow him on Twitter @heady_chris. Email: chris.heady@owh.com.

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