Omar Brown, a 29-game starter at Northern Iowa, got off to a fast start last Thursday night. His first season at Nebraska didn’t go as planned. Simply put, he changed the narrative in the first game of 2023.
He finished with seven tackles and one interception versus Minnesota.
Brown plays with energy and combativeness. Defensive coordinator Tony White uses a plethora of defensive fronts and multiple packages. Brown aligns off the hash marks, in the deep part of the field or close to the line of scrimmage.
The plays in coverage catch everyone’s eye, but his most impressive play of the day may have been a blitz off the edge. He dropped 270-pound Minnesota tight end Breyvn Spann-Ford to the ground on an attempted cross block attempt in the fourth quarter (4th and 1, 4th QTR/3:59, Minnesota ’23). His explosiveness flashed on the play.
It should come as no surprise to Cornhusker fans.
While at Northern Iowa, he tallied 140 tackles, posted an interception once every 7.25 games (eight) and finished with 13 pass breakups.
Brown is battle-tested from his days as a true freshman cornerback for the Panthers. Teams kept attacking him and -as his former head coach Mark Farley stated on PantherSportsTalk back in 2019- he never backed down.
“He’s been a huge difference for us because you know they’re going after him. They went after him early, each team did and he made them pay by getting interceptions,” Farley said. “He’s so sound in coverage, he can run, so confident in himself and he has grown as a person and as a player.”
“That is the thing about Omar, we sit in our coaches offices. He takes every thing very personally,” Farley said. “He takes every thing we do coaching-wise very personal. So if he makes a mistake, it hurts.”
“He wants to go back and correct it. He will be the one standing out there after practice, the last night of practice just because he wants to be better because he feels like he didn’t do good enough that day,” Farley went on to say.
“That’s what makes people great.”
Injuries have been a factor for Brown. He missed the last part of Northern Iowa’s fall season in 2021 due to a season-ending injury. Then, he was largely limited in his first spring at Nebraska after entering the transfer portal late. Current Syracuse and former Nebraska defensive backs coach Travis Fisher was a big reason he settled on the school.
“I had entered the portal late but me and Coach Fish just connected. He told me the truth,” Brown told Hail Varsity a year ago.
Fellow Cornhuskers safeties Isaac Gifford and DeShon Singleton give the unit flexibility. As a result, Brown can cover down over the slot (3rd and 10, 4th QTR/12:27, Minnesota ’23).
Earlier, he snapped out of a 90-degree break in one-on-one coverage versus Minnesota’s Daniel Jackson. He promptly beat him to the reception point on a diving interception. The third quarter interception thwarted a potential Golden Gophers scoring opportunity.
This week, he’ll face Colorado’s speedy receivers Jimmy Horn, Jr. and two-way standout Travis Hunter.
He welcomes the challenge.
“I love playing against skilled players and players that will specifically play in the NFL,” Brown said. “Some players may back away from it, but I can’t wait for it. It will be fun.”
If his roles continue to expand, Brown may face those same players on Sunday afternoons.