Cam Taylor-Britt can’t have anything but respect for the dude.
Because Cam knows how he was feeling near the end of the 2019 Husker season: Hurting. Clawing to get through November. The depth at the position wasn’t yet ready. But no pity party was going to happen. Especially not when he looked over at the guy next to him, Marquel Dismuke. He knew that guy wore the aches just as much.
“We were both back there talking, ‘How are we going to do this?’ with our injuries and things,” Taylor-Britt said. “We were lifting each other up the whole time. He was an older guy and I was a younger guy. I feel we’re on the same page now. We have that chemistry just a little bit more. … He was a strong guy last year. I commend him on that because a lot of people can’t do that.”
It probably doesn’t surprise that Dismuke fought through the pain in 2019 when you consider his previous track record. He’s the one guy still left from the Calabasas Crew that was recruited here during the Riley era. No rehashing the names. You can recall that whole deal. Dismuke didn’t start his first three years, but he did stay when others left.
Then he won the job he wanted in 2019. And he helped Travis Fisher’s big-picture view of the secondary in a significant way by stepping up to the occasion when he did.
“Just having Marquel kind of flip the page and become one of the gifts in the room” was an important deal, Fisher will tell you. “I was able to play him a lot more last year and let some of those younger guys grow.” Younger guys like Myles Farmer and Noa Pola-Gates, who are now poised to help the depth behind Dismuke and Deontai Williams, perhaps keeping the Huskers from the musical chairs situation required a season ago.
It all seems to start with Deontai and Dismuke at safety heading into 2020, though.
“I’ve been missing him,” Dismuke said. “To have him back and get our connection back going, and to have someone on the other side of me that’s going to do what I’m going to do and take control of the defense, has been wonderful.”
When Dismuke became a starter last fall camp, it was all set up just right. He’d gelled with Williams that offseason. They felt like a strong duo. Then the cruel part of football showed itself. Williams was done for the season with an injury before halftime of the first game.
Suddenly, Dismuke was a new starter who had even more weight on his shoulders, with Taylor-Britt joining him, and having to learn on the fly a position that wasn’t as comfortable to him as corner. The beauty for Taylor-Britt is he now gets to return his focus to more of his specialty.
Dismuke had a steady statistical season along the way in 2019. He was third on the team in tackles (67), with 1 1/2 for losses, four pass breakups, a quarterback hurry and a fumble recovery. There were flaws you’ll find. Dismuke knows he needs to keep rising. But in evaluating his play from last year, you should also attach a couple tidbits of inside perspective that Erik Chinander has offered about the veteran defensive back.
1) The coach said in the spring that Dismuke, along with Dicaprio Bootle, is one of those guys you most always trust is going to do the job he is asked on a play.
2) He shared last November that Dismuke was definitely setting a tone for others by playing while not being 100 percent. “So you got to appreciate a guy like that building that culture of toughness, building that culture of wanting to practice,” the defensive coordinator said then.
Dismuke said every aspect of the defense can be improved on in 2020: tackling, running to the ball, pass deflections, getting heat on the quarterback. And … bringing the energy. All. The. Time. And feeding off each other’s injury.
“Just pick something each and every day and get better at it,” Dismuke said.
It feels much different right now to take the field fully healthy. It was a neck injury that most hindered him in 2019. Not ideal for a guy in a cubicle, let alone trying to be the last line of defense on a football field.
“That injury, it was mind-blowing to fight through it each and every game, but I did that just for me, my team, and my players and my coaching staff,” Dismuke said. “And for me as a man to not give up to my brother left and right of me.”
Granted, the brothers are getting restless. They want a game. Dismuke laughed a bit as he talked about teammates getting in some practice skirmishes. He figures it’s about time to release all the pent-up feelings of this offseason against another team.
He’s pretty sure he’s ready for it. Every game he’s played has been a chance, he said, to grow his football IQ. With that knowledge adding up, with his injury healed, with his regular safety cohort back next to him – with all that, you can see why he’d say let’s go do this.
He actually said it another way. “I feel like this is going to be my breakout year.”