The big ugly ones are ready

The big ugly ones are ready


Big Uglies: Defensive linemen who toil in the trenches, often unceremoniously.

Husker D-line assistant Terrance Knighton should have few sleep problems this fall. Why? Because he knows players like Ty Robinson, Nash Hutmacher, Cameron Lenhardt, Blaise Gunnerson and Jamari Butler are coming back.

Certainly, if Husker fans are looking for a bright spot on this fall’s Husker football team, look no further than this year’s Husker D. Yes, the Blackshirts (it feels good to call them that again) should be even better than they were in 2023.

Why? Because this will be Tony White’s second year as a Husker DC and the return of the aforementioned players will help the D pick up where they left off last year.

How much better was the Husker defense compared to the year before?

Here are the rankings from

Scoring defense: 2022 (77th) 2023 (13th)

Rush defense: 108th to 9th

Pass defense: 68th to 40th

Total Defense: 100th to 11th

Opponent 1st Down Conversions 114th to 15th

Opponent 3rd Down Conversions 104th to 45th

Bags made: 101st to 39th

TFLs: 109th to 57th

Yes, the defensive line is just one part of the overall defense. Its success helps the rest of the D in the same way the O-line helps the offense.

Who are the D-linemen returning this fall and what were their tackling stats last year?

1.) Nash Hutmacher 6-4, 330 JR Ocacoma, SD (14), (25) and (40)

2.) Jimari Butler 6-4, 245 JR Mobile, AL (17), (17) and (34)

3.) Ty Robinson 6-6, 300 SR Gilbert, AZ Unassisted (7), With assisted (22) Total: (29)

4.) Cam Lenhardt 6-3, 250 SO Staten Island, NY (9), (7) and (16)

5.) Blaise Gunnerson 6-6, 270 JR Carrol, IA (3), (6) and (9)

6.) Elijah Jeudy 6-3, 280 JR Philadelphia, PA (4), (4) and (8)

7.) Riley Van Poppel 6-5, 275 FR Argyle, TX (1), (4) and (5)

8.) AJ Rollins 6-5, 245 JR Omaha, NE (3), (4) and (7)

9.) James Williams 6-5, 235 Parkville, MO (3), (1) and (4) (Played in only 4 games in 2023.)

10.) Kai Wallin 6-5, 250 SO American River CC (1), (0) and (1) (Played in only 4 games in ‘2023)

Possible depth chart

One: Robinson, Hutmacher and Butler

Twos: Lenhardt, Gunnerson and Jeudy

Threes: Van Poppel, Rollins, Williams and Wallin

Of note: Ru’Quan Buckley, who was expected to return to the D-line this fall, decided to transfer this offseason. Defensive ends Keona Davis and Jordan Ochoa are true freshmen and may not see much action this season. Not all players are included in this column.

Let’s hope coach Terrance Knighton sleeps peacefully this fall. If he does, so will Husker fans.

What about those Huskers

After a two-week leave of absence (due to his travel schedule), Will and I talk about Husker ’25’s new commitments and Adrian Martinez’s recent success in the UFL. Will and I also discuss Tommy Armstrong’s National Arena League football championship, Husker softball, and discuss this fall’s Husker O-line.