LINCOLN, Neb. — The Nebraska secondary is a funny thing. A year ago, it was a disaster, a gaping hole in the Husker defense.
Now, with two solidified corners in Josh Kalu and Chris Jones and senior leadership with safety Nate Gerry, the secondary is the bonafide strong spot of the Blackshirts.
The only remaining question is who will start opposite of Gerry in the other safety spot. Unlike last year, Nebraska actually has quite a few options.
The best bet right now might be sophomore Aaron Williams, who is our third young Husker to watch this season. Here’s the rundown:
Who is Aaron Williams?
Williams was a 3-star recruit out of Atlanta who had offers from Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Wake Forest and Duke before signing with the Huskers.
At Carver High School, Williams racked up 148 tackles and one interception his senior year. He also saw some time at wide receiver, catching 13 balls for 283 yards.
Williams was an early enrollee and came to Lincoln in January of 2015.
What did he do last year?
As a true freshman, Williams started three of the 13 games he appeared in, including the season opener.
At the safety position, Williams had 24 total tackles, three of which were tackles for loss. Statistically, Williams’ best game came in the 55-45 loss to Purdue, when was third on the team with seven tackles.
Injured near the end of the season, Williams missed most of the spring with a leg injury.
Why he could break out
Williams is a sophomore but, like a good portion of this Nebraska defense, he had to grow up quickly last year. He started the season opener last year as a true freshman, only the fifth Husker to do so since World War II, according to Williams’ Huskers.com bio.
And if it wasn’t for his injury and absence in the spring, we wouldn’t be having a debate over who would be the starter. But during that time, Kieron Williams slipped into the rotation, and the two now battle it out for the position.
“It’s competitive, It’s a good thing, though,” Aaron Williams said at practice last week. “I think it just increases everybody’s play.”
Williams’ stats aren’t sexy. But what he gives Nebraska is a consistent presence next to the do-it-all Gerry. Williams doesn’t have to be great to impact this secondary, he just needs to be a presence in the run game and prevent running backs from getting to the second level, which is what he does best.
While the rest of the defense melds into its scheme, Williams has potential to grow within the system in a few different positions.
Even if he doesn’t win his safety spot back, coaches have him studying tape at the nickel.
No matter where he is on the field this year, it’s inevitable he’ll grow from his freshman campaign, and in one way or another, round out the Husker secondary.
Chris Heady is a staff writer for Landof10 and covers Nebraska football and recruiting. He takes movie and story suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org, and on Twitter @heady_chris.