LINCOLN — Donte Williams interrupted the question in mid-sentence. This isn’t about two guys competing for one spot.
The Nebraska cornerbacks coach was asked what he has seen in sophomore Eric Lee and redshirt freshman Dicaprio Bootle as they work for lead roles. He said the fight also includes Lamar Jackson — who became a starting corner in the spring when Joshua Kalu moved to safety — and that all options remain in play.
“We have basically three starting corners, so I wouldn’t just say that those two are battling to start and Lamar is already crowned the king on the other side,” Williams said. “We have basically a three-for-two situation where we have three starters, so it’s a fortunate situation that we’re in.”
Williams was also hesitant to describe any of the corners as leaders of the secondary, saying “our safeties drive our defense.” It helps, he added, that Kalu, Aaron Williams and Kieron Williams own the most experience among NU defensive backs.
Booker readies for weather
Scott Booker is Nebraska’s safeties coach, but he’ll also have the side job of coordinating NU’s special teams. He coordinated Notre Dame’s special teams for five seasons, which means he’s quite familiar with Midwestern weather and its effect on those units. His message to kickers and punters?
“Our motto is ‘any time, any place, any situation,’” Booker said. “So there’s really no need to talk about the wind or the rain or the snow because, last time I checked, they’re not going to stop the game for wind, rain or snow. We don’t discuss.”
Even if the team plays in a hurricane. Notre Dame did last year, losing 10-3 at North Carolina State as the aftereffects of Hurricane Matthew pelted the field with rain.
“I don’t have the ability to call that game and, at North Carolina State, nobody’s listening to me,” Booker said. “It’ll be the same here. We have a great stadium, great facility, but until Shawn Eichorst wants to put a dome over our deal, we’re going to have to play in wind.”
Booker joked he’ll get an extra half-hour of sleep each night because of kicker Drew Brown’s experience. As coordinator, he appears to have a lighter control than previous special teams coordinator Bruce Read — who ran all of the units and coached all the specialists. Booker said he’ll give “the 40,000-foot view of everything” while each assistant has a role in coaching specific groups of players. Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, for example, coaches punter Caleb Lightbourn.
“We’ll see what types of skill sets we have and what types of schemes we can do, but if we have that type of foundation intensity and effort, I think we can do what we need to do,” Booker said.
Freshman Thomas impresses
Nebraska coaches have been quickly impressed by freshman outside linebacker Guy Thomas. He’s listed in the roster as 6-foot-3, 200 pounds. Linebackers coach Trent Bray said Thomas actually weighs 230 pounds. Thomas, a four-star recruit from Miami, thus may be able to play this season instead of redshirting.
“We’re giving him reps and force-feeding him the stuff and seeing how he can adapt to it, what he can do for us, if he can help us this year,” Bray said. “He’s around 230 right now, so he’s physically capable of doing a lot of the jobs we’d ask.”
Thomas is at boundary outside linebacker with sophomore Alex Davis and junior Sedrick King. None of them has major playing experience at NU.
» Defensive end Carlos Davis likes the kind of leadership defensive tackle Mick Stoltenberg is providing, even if, sometimes, his voice sounds like that of a coach.
“If he was behind you and you heard him speak, you would think he’s like an old man,” Davis said. “It’s funny.”
» Diaco remains unique among NU coaches. When asked Tuesday if he’d like to clip a microphone on his shirt, Diaco said flatly “no.” He held the microphone. He then told reporters he had no opening statement.
» One new post-practice snack for Husker players: strawberries. A volunteer halved strawberries and put them into cups. Players would grab a cup and gobble them down. An NU student worker said the strawberries were antioxidants. Pickles — eaten for their salt value — will return at some point in camp.