Bruce Thorson, USA Today Sports

Nebraska On Scout Mid-Season Defensive Awards

The Nebraska on Scout team takes a look at mid-season defensive player awards for the Huskers.

Josh Harvey – Nebraska on Scout Publisher

DL MVP: Ross Dzuris. Most people will say Maurice here, but Dzuris leads the team in sacks and has given the team more than I ever expected. He has had tremendous growth over the last year and has the best mustache in college football.

LB MVP: Nobody really jumps off the page here, but Dedrick Young is third on the team in tackles and is involved in nearly every defensive package. The linebacker group hasn’t played bad and done their jobs, but probably haven’t jumped out as much as I expected heading into the year.

DB MVP: Nathan Gerry is the leader. Chris Jones is probably the most talented. But the MVP is Kieron Williams (Okay, I’m really trying to be a little different here). Williams leads the teams in tackles and has two interceptions. He might be in a position battle with the talented Aaron Williams to keep his spot, but Williams has come up pretty big over the course of the year – he’s a gamer.

Defnesive Coach: Last week I jumped the gun and put my defensive selection in the offensive coach spot until I changed it. I’m still going to say Brian Stewart, who has the corners playing extremely well – a complete turnaround from last year. While Stewart might not be coaching the safeties anymore in practices, his overall experience with the secondary is valuable on game day.

Special teams MVP: JoJo Domann. He doesn’t lead the special teams room in tackles (four total), but he’s only a true freshman. We have come to expect guys like Brad Simpson, Chris Weber and Luke McNitt to be leading the way. Domann could have easily redshirted, instead he’s helping this team anyway he can.

Bruce Thorson, USA Today Sports

Ashley Guinan – Nebraska on Scout Recruiting Extraordinaire

DL MVP: Kevin Maurice. He doesn't get a ton of attention, but he is having a good senior season. There are a few plays he was so close to making that would have maybe helped him stand out more. A couple weeks ago, Maurice was the #2 DT in FBS with 21 pressures. He's been the strongest part of the DL this year. 

LB MVP: After a true freshman season with some mistakes, Dedrick Young has improved this year and hardly ever leaves the field for the Huskers. He leads the LBs in tackles, pass breakups, QB hurries, forced fumbles, and sacks.

DB MVP: There are a ton of options here. I'm going to have to go with Chris Jones. He doesn't have a ton of tackles, but that's sometimes a good problem for a CB. He doesn't get thrown to a ton, and when he does he often comes up with a pass breakup or interception.  

Defensive Coach: Brian Stewart/Mark Banker. The secondary is the most improved unit this year. These two are now splitting duties with CBs and safeties, and that decision is working out. The DBs are playing with a lot of confidence all season.

Special teams MVP: I'm cheating, but these guys deserve a shout out: three-way tie between Brad Simpson, Luke McNitt, and Chris Weber. All 3 came to Nebraska as walkons and are helping a lot on special teams this year. Drew Brown is having a great season, but my special teams shout out is for the Nebraska boys.

Joe Franco – Nebraska on Scout Team Writer

DL MVP: Kevin Maurice. Entering the season as their leader on the defensive line, Maurice has not disappointed. The senior defensive tackle has shown up each week and has been a force with 13 tackles, three coming from behind the line of scrimmage. The Florida native had his best game so far against Northwestern, where he logged his two sacks on the year in two consecutive plays to close out the first half. Those two sacks slowly deflated the life out of the Wildcats and were a big contribution to the Huskers’ win.

LB MVP: Dedrick Young. The sophomore has been the quiet leader on this Blackshirt defense, and has shown to be a fast learner. The Arizona native is third on the team in tackles with 31, and he has shown that he can cover backs out of the backfield. Young’s six games have all been good, but he has yet to have a great one. It’s his consistency in his play, however, that made me choose him over senior captain Josh Banderas. 

DB MVP: Chris Jones entered the season with 15 extra pounds of muscle, and a hunger to become better. The junior rarely gets thrown at during games, but when he has, he’s made the offense pay with his six pass breakups and three interceptions. Jones’ best play of the year was his pick-six last week against Indiana, and each week he continues to improve his NFL draft stock.

Defensive Coach: Brian Stewart.  This could easily have gone to defensive coordinator Mark Banker since the Blackshirts as whole have shown tremendous improvement since last year, but it’s their corners that have really stood out to me on defense. Stewart’s corners, Joshua Kalu and Chris Jones, are responsible for 39 tackles, 10 pass breakups and four interceptions in their first six games. It’s evident that these two are almost always in position to make a play, and their play recognition is stellar. Stewart has molded Jones into becoming a possible high NFL draft pick if the junior decides to go that route at the end of the year.

Special teams MVP: Chris Weber. The Omaha native made the transition from linebacker to special teams this year, and has been involved on more plays than not on their coverage. Weber has impressed Riley so far on special teams, as the head coached stated that the junior takes his role very seriously and has pride in being their point leader with eight tackles.

Stetson Fuller (JackD07) – Message Board Dude

DL MVP: Kevin Maurice, his stat line may not jump off the page but he has done an excellent job creating pressure and creating a dirty pocket in front of the quarterback.  He has also been a steady force at DT while the spot next to him has rotated Stoltenberg and Davis.

LB MVP: To me this is the toughest decision to make, I am going with a guy I didn't expect to play much this year in Michael Rose-Ivey.  While Rose-Ivey is far from perfect he does bring an attitude and knack for the splash play to a position that frankly lacks in the splash play department. 

This has been the most impressive position group on the field to me, there are three guys that are playing elite football currently and none more so than Chris Jones.  Jones has been one of the top CBs in the country thus far and on multiple occasions has surrendered less than five receiving yards in an entire game.  The importance of a lockdown corner to eliminate large chunks of the field and remove a man completely from the play is, in Mike Riley's words "worth their weight in gold".

Defensive coach: Mark Banker.  Bet nobody thought they would hear that!  His blitz packages, and well timed calling have really been refreshing in 2016.  Perhaps when he said that the guys weren't ready within the system to run those blitz packages it was not just lip service.  Also, I really picked him because of what he has done with the safeties.  Nate Gerry and Aaron Williams are playing at All Big Ten levels right now and Kieron Williams is playing better than almost anybody thought he could two years ago.  Taking over the safeties has had a big impact on the corner's development and ultimately the whole team benefitted from Banker taking on the additional responsibility. 

Special teams MVP: Luke McNitt has been excellent in special teams thus far, leading the group in tackles with seven.  I would love to include Simpson and Domann to give all three credit.  Obviously a big play or two down the stretch from DPE or Tre Bryant can certainly put them at the top of the list in the second half of the season.

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