Nebraska football: End-of-season awards for the Huskers
Now that the 2020 campaign is over for Nebraska, it’s time to reflect on the season. A good way to do that is to hold a mini awards ceremony here at Saturday Tradition and pick the MVPs of the team. Some picks were easy, while others were not.
So without further ado, here are the team awards for the Huskers:
Offensive MVP: Brenden Jaimes
Considering how predictable and un-explosive Nebraska’s offense was in 2020, it’s tough to determine an offensive MVP.
You can’t go with quarterback Adrian Martinez. No one is taking away the fact that he’s the clear leader and heartbeat of the program, but he was too much of a rollercoaster and looked physically unable to accurately throw the football down the field.
What about Wan’Dale Robinson? You can’t go with him for MVP, either. Although he’s probably the most talented player with the ball in his hands, he was a non-factor in too many games this season. That’s not all his fault, though, as the coaching staff needs to do a better job of getting him involved. Robinson scored his 1st touchdown of the season in the last game against Rutgers — ouch.
And Dedrick Mills? You could make a case that he would be deserving of offensive MVP honors. But his time of the field was limited this year due to injury, according to the coaches. If Mills was fully healthy, he might challenge Minnesota’s Mohamed Ibrahim as the best running back in the B1G. That wasn’t the case, however.
But what about the offensive line? Brenden Jaimes, a 4-year starter, played left tackle this season. Yes, he opted out of the Rutgers game to focus on the NFL draft, but that shouldn’t dock him points in this discussion. It was a lost season anyway, and looking toward the future was the right move for the Texas native who has an NFL future.
There aren’t many statistics to go by when discussing offensive-line play, but let’s revisit what Frost said when talking about true freshman tackle Turner Corcoran, who made his 1st start in the absence of Jaimes at Rutgers:
“I didn’t notice him. That probably means he played pretty well,” Frost said.
Jaimes, who might be Nebraska’s next player drafted, didn’t get much pub this season. That should tell us that the senior left tackle played really well on a bad offense.
Defensive MVP: Cam Taylor-Britt
We just mentioned that Jaimes may be the next Husker who gets drafted. Cam Taylor-Britt might not be too far away from that achievement, too. Taylor-Britt, a junior, was Nebraska’s best corner. And at 6-0, 205 pounds, he’s got the speed, size and physicality that NFL defensive coordinators are looking for in a secondary.
Taylor-Britt was tied for 1st on the team with 2 interceptions and he totaled 28 tackles, 3 tackles for loss and 4 pass breakups.
The saying “Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time moments” fits Taylor-Britt well. The 2nd team All-B1G member seemed to play his best against the toughest competition. A couple of those moments that come to mind were against Penn State and Rutgers.
Against Penn State, Taylor-Britt held Jahan Dotson to 2 catches for 27 yards. The Alabama native left his feet to deflect a pass away from Dotson when the Nittany Lions were making a comeback in the fourth quarter.
— Cam Juice🧃™️ (@CamTaylorBritt5) November 17, 2020
Taylor-Britt showed off his versatility in that game with 114 all-purpose yards — a 55-yard interception return, 34 yards on a missed field field and a 25-yard punt return just before halftime.
This is just too funny to not enjoy the whole segment here from @HuskerSports @SharpeGreg (sorry, Greg!) and @Matt_Davison on missed FG return by @CamTaylorBritt5. Just watch, listen and enjoy. 😂 pic.twitter.com/RbJv4654Qp
— Chaz in SoCal ❄️ (@Chaz_in_Socal) November 17, 2020
Then against Rutgers, Taylor-Britt sealed the feel-good win in Piscataway with an athletic interception:
Cam Taylor-Britt rising to the moment again. 🔥
— Nebraska On BTN (@NebraskaOnBTN) December 19, 2020
Check out this pass breakup against Purdue’s David Bell. Taylor-Britt’s ball-tracking is above-average:
Cam Taylor-Britt cleared for lift-off catching scouts’ eyes with this play. pic.twitter.com/VPshig2eh7
— ᴄᴀᴍᴇʀᴏɴ ᴘᴀʀᴋᴇʀᴾᴼ (@CameronParkerPO) December 5, 2020
Special teams MVP: Connor Culp, Kicker
Nebraska picking up Connor Culp, a transfer from LSU, proved to be a great move. Culp earned B1G Kicker of the Year honors and made 86 percent of his field goals (13 of 15), which was 2nd in the conference behind Indiana’s Charles Campbell, who only attempted 9. Culp, who hit a season-long 49-yarder against Purdue, is the 1st Husker to get the honor since Brett Maher in 2011 and 2012.
Nebraska’s field-goal kicking situation last year was the definition of ugly — 6 different guys kicked and they went a combined 12-of-20. Having Culp had to give Scott Frost confidence that Nebraska could get points once it got to the 30-yard line.
Assistant of the year: Erik Chinander
Coming into the season, not many fans thought the defense would be the strength of the team. Many figured that designation would go to Scott Frost’s offense, which had every starter on the offensive line back, as well as the 3-year starting quarterback, the starting running back in Mills and the electric wideout Robinson.
Oh, how very wrong we were.
Instead, it was defensive coordinator Erik Chinander’s defense that played well enough to win 3 games that wound up being losses — Northwestern, Iowa and Minnesota. Nebraska’s defense gave up an average of only 23 points in those games. Chinander’s unit did its part, but the offense never came through as it averaged just 16 points.
Imagine what would have happened this season if Frost’s offense came through in those games. Is it crazy to think that the Huskers would be sitting at 6-2? Not at all.
Team MVP: JoJo Domann
The defense as a whole was better in 2020 than it was in 2019, and don’t let anyone tell you different. The Huskers’ defense allowed an average of 5.46 yards per play in 2020, which is better than the 5.61 from 2019. It was more stout against the run, too, holding opponents to 4.17 yards per carry, besting the the 4.82 from 2019.
JoJo Domann, Nebraska’s senior linebacker/safety hybrid, was the most important piece to the defense. He rarely came off the field for Chinander and was the guy counted on to provide run support as well as cover tight ends and receivers, which he’s pretty good at.
"You got beat. So what? Don't give up on the play!"
— Nebraska On BTN (@NebraskaOnBTN) December 12, 2020
This is a great, GREAT play by JoJo Domann pic.twitter.com/zuwN4vB0oJ
— Ben Stevens (@BenScottStevens) December 12, 2020
Along with leading the team in tackles with 58, Domann was tied for 1st in tackles for loss (6.5) and pass breakups (6) — how’s that for versatility?
Does Domann have an NFL future? It sure seemed like it in 2020.