The 2023 Nebraska football season is officially and we're turning the page to 2024 both in college football and the real world. That means that starting this New Year's Eve it's time to really look back at just how the Huskers performed. Particularly the defense.
There was no bigger surprise for the 2023 season than how well the Blackshirts performed game in and game out. They finished 13th in the country in total defense. And after a few scares, they're keeping defensive coordinator Tony White. The only stinker they laid all year was against a Michigan team vying for a National Championship.
We'll use stats as well as grades from Pro Football Focus in order to determine the best 2023 performances overall. The one caveat here is that as far as the grades go, the player must have at least 250 snaps to qualify for this list.
Nebraska football led by Tommi Hill
Tommi Hill has long been one of those players that had a ton of potential but seemed to always fall just a little short. In 2023, he found a way to put everything together. Hill led all defensive players with an overall 85.9 grade thanks to 26 tackles, 9 passes defenderd, 4 interceptions and a fumble recovery. He was also someone opposing defenses usually tried to stay away from and that's not a metric that's easy to measure.
The senior defensive back was a breath of fresh air for most of the season both because of his optimism and embracing of Nebraska football culture but also for his stats on the field. He garnered an 82.8 overall grade thanks to 51 tackles, 1 interception, 3 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
It's worth pointing out that Hill and Brown both posted better grades than the Huskers' top two defenders a year ago. Garrett Nelson earned an 84.9 grade and then Ochaun Mathis had just a 74.8 rating.
I'm not sure there was a player this year more unsung than Javin Wright. He finished the 2023 campaign with a PFF grade of 76.1 thanks to 51 tackles, 2 interception, half a sack, 2 passes defended and a forced fumble.
And yet, I don't know that I recall hearing his name called all that much. That might be a statement on just how good the entirety of the Nebraska football defense was that he was talked about so little despite such a good season.