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Nebraska vs. Illinois, 9.29.17

Nebraska linebacker Alex Davis (22) and teammate Luke Gifford bring down Illinois quarterback Chayce Crouch (7) in during the first quarter of a game in September. Davis’ confidence is growing for the Huskers.

A basketball player growing up, Alex Davis remains pretty confident about his skills on the hardwood.

Asked if he’s the best player on the defensive line, the 6-foot-5 sophomore says, “Oh, definitely.”

Would his teammates agree?

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, they know that,” Davis says with a big grin. “Without a doubt, they know that.”

Davis is confident he’s becoming a better football player, too.

The Riviera Beach, Florida, native said he feels better about his roles and more confident with each rep.

On Saturday against Purdue, Davis played 38 of a possible 66 snaps, sharing time with redshirt freshman Ben Stille at outside linebacker.

“We’ve had some attrition at a lot of spots on defense,” defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said. “Guys in and out of the lineup based on injury. That was the reason for Alex’s uptick in overall participation.”

Nebraska played a lot of four-man fronts against Purdue with Davis at defensive end. Davis even played three snaps at nose guard in a dime package where he dropped back in coverage.

Whether it’s rushing the quarterback from a defensive end alignment or applying pressure as a backer in 3-4, Davis said he feels good about both positions.

“Every time I step out there I get more comfortable with the system, learning my job (and) what I have to do,” said Davis, who had a tackle against Purdue, and has eight stops for the season.

Davis, who only played one season of football in high school, was listed as a starter on the depth chart when the season began. Luke Gifford, Marcus Newby, Tyrin Ferguson and later Stille began getting more reps at the outside linebacker spots. With Gifford out, Davis stepped into a bigger role against the Boilermakers.

“It’s always different from just looking at somebody writing on the board,” Davis said. “You obviously know what they’re saying, but when you actually have to get out there and do it, and how fast stuff (is) happening, you have to read stuff pretty quick, it switches up. Experience is getting out there and being out there helps a lot.”

Weber a finalist for scholar-athlete award: Nebraska senior linebacker Chris Weber on Wednesday was named a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy.

The award is given annually by the National Football Foundation and the College Hall of Fame to a college football player who combines on-field performance, academic prowess and community involvement.

Weber carries a 3.96 GPA, according to a school release, and has already been accepted to medical school at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. He also leads the Huskers with 66 tackles through eight games.

Weber’s also been heavily involved in the school’s life skills program and Uplifting Athletes Road Race fundraising efforts.

As a semifinalist, Weber earned an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship.

He is NU’s first finalist since Spencer Long in 2013 and the 23rd finalist in school history.

Tackling’s been good overall, but slipped against Purdue: Mike Riley said the Huskers overall have tackled pretty well this season. A few busts against the Boilermakers stood out, though, including a 30-yard D.J. Knox run in which he ran right past sophomore linebacker Mohamed Barry.

“The emphasis put on position for tackling, the actual technique of tackling, is really well coached by our coaches. So it becomes very obvious where we miss a tackle or what we can go back and work with that player on doing and how that goes. … That’s how they got at least three of their explosive plays, is missed tackles at the line of scrimmage.“

Working on tackling in practice, understandably, becomes more of a challenge as the season wears on.

“The players are bruised and battered,” Diaco said. “It’s hard to come to the grass and really be dynamic with guys as their shoulders are sore, their arms are sore, their wrists and hands and elbows. We try to train around it and maintain the fundamentals of tackling.”

Young trying to soldier through playing with cast: Inside linebacker Dedrick Young missed his share of tackles, too, against the Boilermakers. He’s trying to play despite recently having surgery on his right hand. He’s sporting a bulky plaster cast that covers most of his fingers.

“Even with these running backs we had to tackle, I know it was pretty tough for him, but he manned up,” said Barry, a fellow inside linebacker who saw his workload increase against Purdue. “He’s my roommate, and he never doubted himself going into the game. He just said, ‘I’ve got a cast, just got to man up and execute.’ And that’s what he did to the best of his capability.”

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