It was only a couple weeks ago where Ben Stille was buried on the defensive end depth chart while re-adjusting after a failed offseason position change at linebacker.
After playing the entire spring as one of Nebraska’s CAT linebackers in the Huskers' new 3-4 defense, Stille learned he would be moving back to defensive end just prior to the team’s annual Fan Day to open fall camp.
The transition back admittedly took some time for the former three-star defensive end standout from Ashland-Greenwood (Neb.), but a switch seems to have been flipped for Stille the past couple of weeks.
The 6-foot-5, 255-pound redshirt freshman saw a big uptick in playing in NU’s win over Rutgers, finishing with three tackles and a tackle for loss.
Stille then put together by far his best game as a Husker in Friday night’s victory at Illinois, racking up another three tackles, three TFLs, and registering his first career sack. His three stops for loss were the most by a Husker so far this season.
“I’m definitely more comfortable with everything we’re doing back there,” Stille said. “I’ve gotten a little more playing time under my belt, so that helped a lot, just being able to play a little bit faster…
“When you make plays it just reassures yourself that you can play at this level.”
Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said during the Huskers’ slow start to the year defensively he and his staff started discussing potential players to move up the depth chart to try and provide a spark.
One of the first names that came to Diaco’s mind was Stille.
“Isn’t that fun?” Diaco said of Stille’s breakout performance. “Like we said a few weeks ago, it’s like, ‘OK, who is not participating that should?’ And it’s like, ‘Oh, Ben. Absolutely.’ He’s worked hard, he’ s been non-stop in his effort and energy and preparation.
“So we’re not shocked. He sets a strong edge, he understands force and alley defense as it relates to his positioning and the players around him. Then he gives great, great effort, so he’ll continue to thrash around until something good happens for him. It’s fun.”
Given his production the past two weeks paired with Nebraska’s impressive defensive turnaround, Stille should only continue to see his role increase the rest of the season.
With the rapid rise he’s made thus far, there’s no telling just how good he could potentially get when all is said and done.
“Two weeks ago I wasn’t taking many reps at all,” Stille said. “I was third string, so I was backing up Freedom (Akinmoladun) and Khalil (Davis). So I wasn’t taking that many reps in practice, but the reps I did get I made sure to go all out.”