Laviska Shenault

Colorado's Laviska Shenault catches a third quarter pass as Nebraska's Dicaprio Bootle defends. Nebraska played Colorado in a college football game at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, in Lincoln, Nebraska. RYAN SODERLIN/THE WORLD-HERALD

LINCOLN — Sooner or later, the humbling arrives. Usually in early adulthood, you learn no matter how good you are at something, there’s another someone as good or even better, and there isn’t much you can do about it.

If you’re a cornerback in football, you’d rather meet that someone in practice than a game. But sometimes you’re Nebraska’s Dicaprio Bootle covering Colorado wide receiver Laviska Shenault last season, and well, there just wasn’t much more that Bootle could have done.

Twice in the second half of NU’s 33-28 loss to CU last season, Bootle covered Shenault on slot fade patterns — deep routes down the sideline. Bootle was never out of phase with Shenault, who never had more than a yard on Bootle. Yet the routes were so good — and quarterback Steven Montez’s passes were, too — that Shenault hauled in 37- and 40-yard gains. The first set up a Colorado touchdown. The second represented the winning touchdown.

“One of them he actually caught with his fingertips,” Bootle recounted Monday. “I saw the photo.”

Bootle and the rest of NU’s defensive backfield are about to see Shenault again in Boulder. And try to hold him to far fewer than the 10 catches and 177 yards he had last season in Lincoln.

Sign up for World-Herald news alerts

Be the first to know when news happens. Get the latest breaking headlines sent straight to your inbox.

One guy doesn’t win a football game. But the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Shenault — widely projected to be a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft — was the difference in Colorado’s win.

NU defensive backs coach Travis Fisher thus expects “urgency” from his guys.

“Know everything about him,” Fisher said. “First name. Last name. Where he went to high school.”

Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander agreed.

“You’ve got to know where that cat’s at,” Chinander said.

In Colorado’s old offense under a different coaching staff, Shenault lined up everywhere. At X, or outside receiver. At H-back. In the slot, where his size and speed combination is hard to stop.

In CU’s new pro-style offense, coordinated by Jay Johnson, Shenault spent more snaps as a true X receiver in the first game. He caught three passes for 48 yards and a touchdown, with three carries for 35 yards.

“Just because you know where he’s at doesn’t mean you know what’s going to go on, but understanding where he’s at and how he can work our calls — when he’s at X (receiver), when he’s in a backfield, when he’s a tight end — we’ve got to know where he’s at,” Chinander said.

NU coaches and defenders agreed, too, that Shenault isn’t CU’s only receiving threat. Defensive back Cam Taylor-Britt said the Buffaloes’ receiving corps was among the best Nebraska faced last season, including the bunch from Ohio State, which featured multiple NFL draft picks. K.D. Nixon and Tony Brown, Fisher said, are the other two receivers to watch most closely.

Montez is among the most accomplished quarterbacks in school history, if not as celebrated as Kordell Stewart or Koy Detmer once were. He’s started 25 straight games and thrown for more than 7,000 career yards. He’s just mobile enough, Chinander said, to be dangerous running the ball. And when he had to make two perfect throws last season over Bootle, he did that. Shenault can’t pass the ball to himself.

Bootle expects Colorado to see a much improved Husker secondary, too.

“I’m so much better and more comfortable with myself,” Bootle said. “I’ve put myself in a position to be more comfortable with what I can do and the type of person I am and the type of player I am, the type of player I want to become. I’m just that much more ahead of where I was last year.”