Spring setup: With everybody back at OLB, is there a wild card candidate to crack the rotation?

Penn State quarterback Will Levis (7) gets tackled by Nebraska’s JoJo Domann (13) and Will Honas (3) on Nov. 15 at Memorial Stadium.

As the March 30 start of spring football draws nearer for Nebraska, the Journal Star is taking a brief look at each position on the roster and where the Huskers stand. Defense week continues with a look at Mike Dawson’s outside linebacker room.

Monday: Defensive line

Tuesday: Inside linebacker

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Today: Outside linebacker

Thursday: Corners

Friday: Safeties

Saturday: Defensive two-deep

Returning scholarship players: senior JoJo Domann, juniors Caleb Tannor, Pheldarius Payne and Damian Jackson, sophomores Garrett Nelson and David Alston, freshmen Blaise Gunnerson and Jimari Butler.

New this spring: None. Freshman Wynden Ho’ohuli gets to campus this summer.

Walk-ons to watch: sophomore Simon Otte.

Veteran presence: Domann’s decision to return and use the NCAA’s extra year of eligibility constituted one of the bigger personnel stories of the offseason so far. The versatile senior has seen his play get continually better and 2020 was his best yet. Domann finished with a career-best 58 tackles despite the shortened season and logged 6.5 tackles for loss. He’s not your prototypical outside linebacker in a 3-4 system, but he’s turned himself into a valuable player who rarely comes off the field. He’s also stayed healthy, appearing in every game the past two seasons after a string of early-career injuries.

Spring storyline

Beyond Domann, NU has a bunch of role players at OLB. There’s no clear-cut, every-down player, but Dawson and company pieced together a mostly workable group last year that included mostly Tannor, Payne and Nelson. Each are in different stages of prove-it territory. Tannor was a highly regarded prospect and was more consistent in 2020. Nelson made some plays and came on late in the season. Payne showed flashes in his first year in the program and it will be interesting to see what his next step looks like.

One of the big wild cards in this group: What can Gunnerson (6-6, 245) and Butler (6-5, 235) bring? Every freshman had an odd year in 2020, and Gunnerson spent most of the season trying to get healthy. They’ve got prototypical size and lots of football in front of them. Can either make a push this spring?

— Parker Gabriel