Countdown to spring ball: ‘Sniper’ Deontai Williams prime candidate for starting role in 2019

March 4, 2019 GMT

Nebraska opens spring football Monday and is set for a five-week session before the Red-White Spring Game on April 13 at Memorial Stadium. In the days before spring ball starts, the Journal Star is previewing each position group. We continue with the safeties.

Departed: Aaron Williams, Tre Neal, Antonio Reed.

Returning players: Marquel Dismuke, jr.; JoJo Domann, jr.; Deontai Williams, jr.; CJ Smith, rfr.; Cam’ron Jones, rfr.

Incoming players: Noa Pola-Gates, Quinton Newsome, Myles Farmer.

Walk-on to watch: Reid Karel, sr.

Returning statistical leaders: Williams, 23 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles; Domann, 19 tackles and two forced fumbles; Dismuke, 10 tackles and one forced fumble.

Overview: The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Deontai Williams showed flashes last season of the bravado contained in his comments to the Journal Star in late 2017, when he verbally committed to Nebraska.

“I call myself a sniper,” he said then. “That’s what I do. I’m just sniping people on the field -- one-shot kill. I’m very vicious and very aggressive. I’m an aggressive player and I feel like I have that dog in me. You can’t teach somebody to be a dog. You just either have that in you or you don’t.”

Williams has an excellent chance to become a starter in 2019 in the wake of heavy personnel losses at the position. To wit: Aaron Williams, Neal and Reed ranked among the team’s top six tacklers in 2018. In 2019, Deontai Williams may be joined in the lineup at safety by Domann, who showed some “dog” last season with his sack of Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins on Nov. 3 at the Big House.

The 6-1, 225-pound Domann had been listed exclusively at safety on the depth chart until the week of the Oct. 27 win against Bethune-Cookman, when he suddenly shared an “or” designation with outside linebacker Alex Davis as backups behind starter Tyrin Ferguson. Nebraska head coach Scott Frost said at the time the change was not a position move, but rather a way for the team to add depth at linebacker. The outside linebacker and nickel spots are interchangeable in NU’s defense.

Domann could play multiple positions. He just wants to contribute.

“Like I’ve said many times, I’m a football player,” he said. “I’m not just a safety. I’m not just a cover guy. I like to be able to do every aspect of the game.”

Dismuke also is a prime candidate to land a starting role. Meanwhile, CJ Smith will miss the spring as he recovers from a knee injury suffered Oct. 13 at Northwestern.