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Life in the Red: A lesson in the danger of the 'B-gap step-up' from Husker OLB coach Mike Dawson

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Friday Night Lights, 6.18

Camp participants run a drill led by Nebraska football assistant Mike Dawson during a Friday Night Lights camp on Friday, June 18 at Memorial Stadium.

Nebraska outside linebackers coach Mike Dawson, during his hourlong appearance on the "Sports Nightly" program, gave a Football 101 lesson. 

Let him tell you about the dangers of the B-gap step up if you're a defensive lineman. 

"When a quarterback, mobile or not, has an opportunity to use the B-gap step-up, so one defensive end gets too high and maybe a defensive tackle doesn’t push the pocket far enough, or maybe a combination of both, a throwing quarterback uses that window as a throwing lane," he said. "Now he has an easy throw, nothing in his eyes, nothing to throw over and he’s usually got a pretty good, clear window to throw to a receiver.

"That’s a real big part of when you rush. Everybody wants to rush the passer, everybody wants sacks, everybody wants to come over the wall at the quarterback. You have to be able to do that as a four-man group, all four guys rushing together. If one guy doesn’t do his job, it doesn’t matter if the other three guys had great rushes. You lose contain as an edge rusher, or you lose the step-up as an inside rusher, the quarterback takes off and scrambles. Then we’re not working together.

"That’s something that (defensive line coach Tony) Tuioti and I work in tandem with. We spend a lot of time talking about that to the guys." 

Recently, defensive coordinator Erik Chinander and Dawson both noted that sophomore Garrett Nelson had improved markedly at rushing the passer in a way that he closes off the B-gap. Essentially, it's a controlled rush that allows Nelson to keep contain but also doesn't allow the quarterback to use the B-gap step-up.

It's something interesting to watch Saturday when Nebraska takes on Minnesota. 

As Dawson explained above, it's not just a discipline for facing fast quarterbacks. Dawson said when he was a graduate assistant at Pitt in the Big East, he watched Michael Vick run wild at Virginia Tech. 

"I would watch him pull the ball down and just score so fast he’ll make your head spin," he said. 

But even a guy like Minnesota's Tanner Morgan, who will not be mistaken for Vick, can make a defense pay if it gets out of its rush lanes. 

"There's guys that run well enough. They can pull it down and, you know what, if you're not disciplined in what you're doing, they're going to make you pay for it," Dawson said. "When he has it, he's savvy enough to be able to gain the yards. He does a good job of not trying to extend himself too much. He gets down when there's danger around him and things like that." 

Contact the writer at pgabriel@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.

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