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Huskers’ improvement along D-line starts with strength and conditioning | Football

» Nebraska’s lack of depth, experience and projected production at outside linebacker may prompt players from other positions to switch and get more work at outside ‘backer.

Tuioti said Pheldarius Payne — the 6-foot-3, 275-pound junior college transfer — has been working at outside linebacker as NU looks for ways to improve its pass rush. Payne, generally undersized for a 3-4 defensive line, was recruited in part for his third-down pass-rushing skills.

Payne’s move doesn’t mean he’s suddenly playing the same role as JoJo Domann. Often on third down, former Husker outside linebacker Alex Davis was rushing the passer from what amounted to a stand-up defensive end. At times, Davis even put his hand on the ground.

Inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud said Omaha Burke grad and redshirt freshman Nick Henrich could move to outside linebacker a little bit, as well. Henrich is likely in the two-deep at inside linebacker, too.

» Junior Eteva Mauga-Clements, who arrived from junior college, is still trying to catch up having lost almost all of spring camp.

“There’s nothing like doing it with pads on and full speed,” Ruud said of Mauga-Clements, who did well in online learning lessons.

Ruud said the inside linebacker play in general was “up and down” last season, and the tackling has to get better. Ruud said he thinks it will because they understand where their help and leverage is coming from on the defense. Ruud suggested the success of the Husker defense will depend on the inside linebackers.

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