The Nebraska Cornhuskers may have found the antidote to stopping the spread offenses in college football. They called it the "Peso" defense. One of the newest players on the Cleveland Browns' roster, Eric Hagg, could be credited as a founding father.
Last April, the Browns selected Hagg with their final pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Hagg (6-foot-1, 209 pounds), who was listed as a safety, was taken with the No. 248 overall pick in the seventh round.
"They wanted to play a base nickel defense," BigRedReport.com's Bryan Munson said. "They wanted to run a linebacker off to play more against the spread offenses in the Big 12. They didn't want a guy as versatile as Eric Hagg off the field. They wanted him to stay on the field."
So, with the introduction of the Peso defense, Hagg stayed on the field and strived in that defensive formation, Munson said.
"Eric's biggest strength is his versatility," Munson said. "There wasn't a position, from outside linebacker to all the way back to the secondary, where Nebraska wasn't tempted in saying Hagg didn't have a chance to play there."
Hagg's blessing is also a curse. Think: Jack of all trades, master of none.
"The position I played at Nebraska was the nickel position," Hagg said last April. "Most teams say it was the drop-down safety. I would assume that I would be able to play corner and safety, but it really depends on what the coaches want me to do and I will work at what they want me to do."
As for how Hagg's talents project to the professional level, he does not easily fit as an NFL safety, cornerback or outside linebacker.
"He doesn't run as well as you'd want as a nickel back," Munson said. "At times he isn't a sure tackler and he also struggles against faster receivers. He will make that up with his great football intelligence that a lot of guys don't have and, while he doesn't have great straight-line speed, he makes up for his shortcomings with his athleticism."
At Nebraska, Hagg played in 48 games and last season he had five interceptions. The last two seasons in which Hagg started all 28 games, the Cornhuskers defense was among the best in the nation. Last season, Nebraska was fifth in pass defense and ninth in scoring defense. In 2009, the Cornhuskers were the best in the nation in scoring defense, pass efficiency defense and tied for second in sacks.
"Arguably, the last two seasons Eric Hagg was No. 1 or No. 2 overall in order of importance of the Nebraska defense," Munson said. "That's saying something considering how well they played as a unit."
Before Hagg settled in as the key to the Peso defense, he cut his teeth on special teams. That, according to Munson, is where Hagg can shine early and often in Cleveland.
"When he was given responsibility, he came through in the clutch," Munson said. "Especially on how responsibilities are increased at the professional level, he is a guy coaches can depend on to run down and stay in his lane.
"He will get rave reviews for his willingness to try anything out. I have a feeling the Browns will do something like what Nebraska did and find a position that works for Eric. He can be a special teams guru, make a name for himself and then somewhere down the road an opportunity may present itself."