My apologies for the delay getting this out. Weekend went off the rails and the Wine/Balloon Festival in Elkhorn completely ruined all of my plans as I must have too many samples.
Now for an interesting position group. If you read my 3-4 vs 4-3 argument, this position is one that people always point to as a reason the 3-4 is tough to use. I don’t quite see it that way, but it’s interesting that we have one spot that will be held down by JoJo Domann. As many of you know, I have been saying for a couple years that he is our best player on defense. I do think that CTB has taken that title from him now, but he has played lights out, and it’s not like his play got worse. It was that CTB increased his game. Domann can pretty much do anything you need him to, he can be in for running or passing downs, blitz or cover, etc.
Sticking with what i’ve always said… OLB on this team is one of the easiest jobs to do in terms of what your ask is. But it’s incredibly difficult to be elite at it. You have to set the edge (should be easy you are already outside of everyone) and turn everything back in. However, you also are needed to be in coverage from time to time. When we had Luke Gifford, he was extremely good at turning things back inside to his help but also going and making the play. Where you see our younger guys struggle is getting hung up on “nothing outside” and their gap widens and massive holes ensue. Such as up top here where the tackle just blocks out on Nelson:
Nelson was a hand in the dirt nearly every play in high school kid. So he is best against teams like Wisconsin and Iowa where he can stand his ground on the line of scrimmage. But he struggles a bit in coverage specifically (that’s to be expected) and leaves some to be desired as a pass rusher. But that really is the theme for the OLB spot opposite Domann. We have players that are pretty good at what their skill is, but lack in one or two areas.
Next you have Caleb Tannor, who is in year 4 and had always been just a bit too small for the Wisconsin and Iowa’s but seemed to be the best at rushing the passer and trying to get home there. Chinanders nickel package (talked about in the post Chinanders Chess Move) was all about a guy like Tannor and using him to get home in obvious passing downs. With that said, this needs to be a breakout year for him. Let’s hope it is.
Lastly you have Pheldarius Payne. The dude came in as a DE for us, got Covid and was hurt so lost a ton of weight, and all of a sudden may be our all around OLB opposite Domann. His situation is example one million why I always talk about S/C promoting weight gain as priority 1 isn’t always the best thing. PP has a chance to be our best all-around guy and thus, get on the field the most out of all the guys at OLB. It would not shock me if he led our OLBs in snaps (besides Domann).
Ho’Ohuli, our highly coveted LB recruit also could be a factor here, but I think it may be a little too early for him. With that said, his skill was one that I couldn’t leave off the preview, even though i’m sure they will just move him back and forth between ILB and OLB til they find his comfort zone.
Back to the Domann spot, and looking at the backup… Isaac Gifford will be primed to take that role over once JoJo leaves. You’ll see him on every special team, and he’s learning from a very good/instinctive football player. I actually like that depth over there.
You also have Buddah Wright, the son of Toby, battling it out with Gifford for the backup spot. Wright was injured as a true freshman so he was a bit behind, but there’s no doubt he has the frame and athleticism to get it done.
Sorry for the quick preview, wanted to get something out. Comment below!