Life in the Red: A couple of young DLs to watch, including one who pushes ‘ridiculous’ weight

Damion Daniels (93) talks to his brother Darrion Daniels during practice at Hawks Championship Center in April 2019.

Damion Daniels knows his way around the Nebraska football weight room.

The junior defensive tackle didn’t take part in the program’s recent index testing at the end of winter conditioning due to a minor muscle pull, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Daniels is a strong guy.

Just watch the 6-foot-2, 330-pounder move an opposing offensive lineman — something he did more often in 2020 — or the way a running back tends to stop quickly when he runs into Daniels.

So it’s worth noting the redshirt junior’s answer Monday when asked which of the young players in Tony Tuioti’s defensive line room have impressed him.

Two jumped to mind quickly: 2020 freshman Nash Hutmacher and January midyear enrollee Ru’Quan Buckley.

“Nash is one of the strongest people, probably, in the program right now,” Daniels said. “Watching him move the weight, it’s ridiculous. He’s moving way better than when before he first got here. Just looking at how far he’s come since he’s been here, that’s pretty big.”

Tuioti gave a recent example of how much more nimble Hutmacher, nicknamed “Polar Bear,” is now compared to a year ago when going through a ladder drill that focuses on agility.

“He picks his big feet up and brings them back down — and he’s snapping every single step-over ladder,” Tuioti told the Journal Star earlier this month. “They literally snap and pop to the side. They split like peas. Everybody stopped and started cracking up. I’m like, ‘Nash, are you serious? You just broke three of those things.’

“He couldn’t help it. Now we do the drill and he flies through it. He’s become so much quicker. You’re talking about the Polar Bear. Those are some big ol’ trunks now.”

Buckley, a Michigan native, is listed at 6-5 and 280 pounds and apparently has assimilated quickly in Lincoln.

“Ru’Quan, just coming in here, he’s said a couple things that, just as a freshman, he said a couple things here and there,” Daniels explained. “Usually coming in as a freshman, you just look around and kind of take in what you can, so (speaking up is) pretty big for him.”

“Pretty big,” could also describe Buckley.

“Yeah,” Daniels said, “Ru’Quan looks like a guy that can contribute right away.”