May 21, 2024
Lamar Jackson

Nebraska senior defensive back Lamar Jackson warms up before game against Illinois, Saturday September 21, 2019. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — He was Nebraska’s top recruit from the 2016 class and came to the program with high expectations.

After Lamar Jackson got thrown to the wolves as a true freshman he struggled transitioning into Power Five football. Even Mike Riley’s staff was criticized for the development of the former four-star prospect after his first season in Lincoln.

Unfortunately, the Riley regime didn’t get to stick around to see Jackson blossom into one of the studs on the Huskers’ defense. Not to mention Jackson is one of the last ‘Calibraska’ recruits remaining on Nebraska’s roster.

With his size and frame Jackson is a versatile defensive back. He can play every position required in the secondary. Jackson arrived on campus as a safety, but continues to excel as a corner. The six-foot-three, 215-pounder has improved in bump and run coverage as well knocking opposing receivers off their routes.

He’s a big reason why Nebraska’s defense is starting to gel together at the right time after the road victory over Illinois. The come from behind victory gave confidence to the Blackshirts. Jackson believes the group found out a lot about themselves during that game.

“Whenever there’s momentum on the other sideline the opponent builds off of that,” Jackson said. “The fact that we could make plays, engage our sideline, get everybody else’s spirits up, we just feed off of that.”

The Blackshirts are beginning to hold their own, versus last season when the unit gave up big plays and couldn’t get off the field. Nebraska’s Defensive Coordinator Erik Chinander has the players well conditioned and it showed in the fourth quarter when the Blackshirts stayed fluid while the Illinois players began cramping.

The Huskers’ defense has allowed 31 or more points on the road for the ninth-straight time. Still, Jackson believes the unit made a step in the right direction.

“They had us backed up many times and our defense had to do this and that,” he said. “So I’m just happy about our defense’s performance.”

Nebraska needs to carry every ounce of momentum over to Saturday’s game against No. 5 Ohio State. The Huskers are double-digit underdogs inside the Sea of Red, but this game could potentially be a signature win for Scott Frost if he can pull off the upset.

A game of this magnitude will also have conference and recruiting implications. Nebraska will be under the lights with the nation watching and has a chance to change the perception of the program. No more settling for moral victories, instead expecting hard-fought wins.

Regardless of the matter, the Husker players are approaching this matchup the same way they do all the others. The games are played on the field and not on paper. Jackson knows at the end of the day that’s all that matters and the Blackshirts have yet to reach their ceiling.

“The game is four quarters and we been preaching finish, finish, finish since the beginning of the 60 minutes.”

For the Huskers’ sake, Jackson believes the defense can start strong and keep the momentum on their side. Nonetheless going up against Justin Fields and the Buckeyes’ high-flying offense will be a great measuring stick for the Blackshirts.