2023 Preview: Jack/Edge

Scholarship Returning: Jimari Butler, Javin Wright, Kaine Williams

Scholarship Lost: Garrett Nelson (NFL), Ochaun Mathis (NFL), Caleb Tannor (CFL), Jake Appleget (TE)

Scholarship Incoming: MJ Sherman (Georgia), Chief Borders (Florida), Maverick Noonan

Phil Steele B1G Position Ranking (LB)
Ohio State
Penn State
Michigan State

You take a look at the scholarships lost from our OLB spot in the 3-4, and it’s a tough pill to swallow. Garrett Nelson, a 2022 team captain and 2nd team All-B1G selection seems to be the biggest blow to the Jack spot this year. Ochaun Mathis who was a one year transfer from TCU, never made all-conference in the B1G like he did in the Big12, but he played quite a bit in every game of 2022, with 2 starts. Caleb Tannor who everyone believed to be the prototypical 3-4 OLB when he was committed never materialized either. While he started 11 games last year, he was also voted team captain. Two captains gone from this Jack position, and a third guy in Ochaun Mathis that would have really helped. Tough to replace.

Rhule hit the transfer portal hard, bringing in MJ Sherman from Georgia. While I love the pickup and you take him all the time, I always get worried about the guy who doesn’t have any production where he came from. Sherman played in 39 games for the Bulldogs, but mostly got his stats in mop-up duty. You also have Chief Borders coming in from Florida, where he played in every game for the Gators in 2022, primarily on special teams.

Three players from last years 2022 team return to man the Jack spot, led by Jimari Butler, who was once in the transfer portal but decided to come back. Kaine Williams and Javin Wright have also been getting reps here.

Lastly, this staff brought in Maverick Noonan as a true freshman who showed a ton of promise this spring, but suffered a season ending knee injury in fall camp.

MJ Sherman – Sherman arrived to Lincoln from Athens this spring and immediately made an impact. He had 4 tackles in the spring game and 1.5 TFL. A common theme that seems to be happening with this preview is guys playing along the line on defense are getting TFLs, and Sherman will help there. This is your starter for game 1.

Jimari Butler – Butler and Sherman were splitting time with the 1s before an injury set Butler back this fall. While we had some studs that were mentioned in the first paragraph last year, it worries me he really struggled to play meaningful snaps. I think he is still a year away but he will be our guy if Sherman goes down (if healthy of course).

Chief Borders – Currently our 2nd string Jack with Butler out. Borders didn’t do much in Gainesville but steps into a situation here where he will end up being called upon at some point. Time will tell if he is ready.

Kaine Williams – The Alabama transfer hasn’t been able to make a dent in the DB room, so they moved him to LB. I’m speculating he is working at the JACK spot, but it doesn’t matter, he’s struggling a bit.

Javin Wright – This is the one that intrigues me, i’ve been told they moved him to LB and I believe it is the JACK spot. He could press for some playing time as he has made some plays when i’ve watched. But his lack of experience is an issue.

Maverick Noonan – I believe he could have played this year if not for the injury, unfortunate.


Weird situation. I hesitate with guys like Sherman who couldn’t cut it at premier programs and transfer here to play. I’ve seen it all too often with Stepp (USC), Johnson (Ohio State), Wynn (Alabama), Williams (Alabama), that there was a reason they didn’t play. With that said, at minimum he will be playing for us, and this is your starter for 2023. How good he is really is anyone’s guess.

The #2 spot is the big question. Was it Butler? Or is Chief Borders #2 no matter if Butler is available or not? Noonan could have been absolutely been pushing for this.

What’s weird is Mike Dawson once stated the OLB spot is the easiest position to know what to do, but it’s difficult because you are asking a guy to stop the run, rush the passer, and drop into coverage at times. That’s what the issue is. Many people think that OLB/Jack is the toughest position to recruit in college football. I would disagree. Luke Gifford is from Lincoln and on an NFL squad, we’d take him again. Garrett Nelson from Scottsbluff we’d take in a heartbeat.

The good news is the JACK spot in the 3-3-5, there’s only 1 as opposed to the 3-4 where we need 2. But this is thin, especially with Butler out. Let’s see who plays here behind Sherman against Minnesota. But I will be watching this spot closely.

This was just a teaser and we will get more in depth on the LB room tomorrow to give a more wholistic summary.

Join us tomorrow when we go over the ILBs! Feel free to click below to check out the Sideline Store!

ShortSideOption Blog

Nothing is required, just helps with site fees


4 thoughts on “2023 Preview: Jack/Edge

  1. I find Wright intriguing. We’ve seen a ton of promise in him and yet in the DB field, it seems we need bodies but they move him to a place where we arent as pressing? Maybe he plays both positions, but I sure feel like we could use him in the backfield right now. Not sold that singleton and brown are anything but average. And even Gifford is fast and a good character guy, he missed a ton of tackles last year and GE ran over him like a rag doll in the scrimmage. I have to remind people its not Luke.

    1. I’m getting the sense that our staff feels really good about our options at DB. They moved Stenger away from there who was promising and didn’t chase Farmer to come back. But i’m like you I need them to show me they are good before I believe they are. To your point, we are playing 5 DBs so not sure why we moved Wright but we will see.

  2. I have cautious optimism for the transfers who didn’t play much. I would hope for a hit ratio as much as high school recruits, and that they were just behind stacked positions at their schools.

    Like recruiting in general with Rhule, I’m probably innately assuming he will be able to identify and/or develop them better than our prior regimes Granted, a lot of schools where they came from (Georgia, Florida), development probably wasn’t the main issue.

    I think some of them were more risk/reward flyers anyway (Gilbert, Hood), where there’s some great physical traits, the rest just needs to fall into place. Where I’d guess recruits like Sherman, Borders, and Collier were signed with the hopes of being at least contributors in the next few years.

    Hope springs eternal

    1. I think Sherman and Borders are in just way different situations, they basically both have to play so they will both be hits. But they aren’t even close to the production of a Mathis, Palmer, Thompson, etc. They are more like Johnson, Stepp, Wynn, etc. The difference will be that we absolutely have to play them. Which is fine but makes things dire. They will be “hits” from the standpoint of having to play.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: