If there are some positives to take away from the spring portion of practice for Nebraska football, it’s the defense. It’s no secret the Cornhuskers struggled through the first three seasons under Scott Frost, but that could change in 2021.

Don’t worry because the defense, that’s right the defense, will be the strength of the team according to CBS Sports’ Tom Fornelli. After viewing the Big Ten’s spring practices, Fornelli provided his overreactions.

Unexpectedly, coming from an offensive coach in Frost, the defense could carry the program in 2021.

“Listen, was the Nebraska defense supposed to be the strength of the team entering Scott Frost’s fourth season in Lincoln, Nebraska,” Fornelli wrote. “Of course not, but whatever you want to take away from it, the fact of the matter is Nebraska’s defense is further along than its offense at this point.

“The unit dominated during practice and really showed out during the spring game. The first team allowed only one rushing yard on nine attempts and only let two of the eight passes attempted against it find a receiver. What’s more encouraging is that the defense was without some of its starters — and lost Will Honas during the spring game — but players behind them on the depth chart stepped up and performed well. Yes, it’s taking the offense a lot longer to come along than anybody could’ve imagined, but a sturdy defense will help keep the Huskers in games in 2021 and make them far more competitive than they have been recently.”

If the spring game and practices were any indication, some young Cornhuskers stepped up and made pretty big impressions on the defensive side. Blaise Gunnerson and Nash Hutmacher stood out for Husker247.

“Last year in many ways got trashed for Gunnerson as he was coming back from injury and then the whole COVID derailment,” Brian Christopherson of Husker247 wrote. “But the freshman outside linebacker a lot of folks really, really liked in the 2020 class showed up well in the spring viewings we had. He was easy to find in the Spring Game, in which he had a sack going against his roommate Turner Corcoran, and was credited with three tackles.”

If Gunnerson made a huge impression on Nebraska’s defense, Hutmacher did even more.

“The feedback from peers about Hutmacher’s progress just gets a little better every week he gets asked about,” Christopherson wrote. “If you missed him in the Spring Game, I’m not sure how. His strength showed up throughout, as he helped collapse the pocket and finish with six tackles, including one sack, and putting up a wall on a fourth-and-short. Damion Daniels said Hutmacher is already one of the strongest in the program and pushes “ridiculous” weight in workouts.

“Hutmacher popped up in the season finale against Rutgers last year, so don’t be surprised if he earns his way into some game reps quickly in 2021, although Daniels may be more prepared now for a lion’s share of work it seems and the hope is we didn’t yet see close to what big Jordon Riley can do. But it feels like Hutmacher is going to matter already on that D-line, even with some good depth, in 2021 at some point.”

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