The Nebraska football team is counting on its defense being better in 2019. Positions expected to take big steps forward include the defensive line. Even knowing all that, Deontre Thomas' play has surprised his coaches.

His play has been so surprising, as a matter of fact, that he's getting some impressive comparisons. His position coach even brought up the specter of Aaron Donald. Donald, if you don't follow the NFL, is one of the best defenders in the game. It's likely he'll finish his career as one of the best defensive linemen to ever play.

NFL Pro Bowler pass-rushing talent

When talking about his charge, Tony Tuioti detailed just why the surprise of Nebraska football's defense this camp has impressed him so much.

“He’s very light on his feet, he’s very explosive, he’s got built-in leverage,” the coach said. “He’s hard to block. He’s got some Aaron Donald-type built-in leverage and he uses that to his advantage. He’s got very powerful, strong hands, too.”

No, Tuioti is clearly not saying that Deontre Thomas is as good as Donald.

But it can't hurt to have even a little bit of what makes the Donald great. The Rams' defensive lineman recorded a whopping 20.5 sacks last year alone. In five seasons, Donald has 59.5 sacks in his career.

Those numbers put him 20th in the NFL among active defenders. Deontre Thomas certainly has a long ways to go before he can talk about doing anything close to that.

The Nebraska football program will settle for just being among the best defenders in the Big 10 this season. He still has to crack the starting lineup before he can show that kind of talent though.

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Nebraska football's diamond in the rough

Thomas came to Lincoln with some hype attached. That's both a good and bad sign in 2019.

When he was a true freshman there was also talk about what a great camp he was having. He ended up playing in six games but recorded just 14 tackles.

Last year, he appeared in just four games and had only four tackles. The good news is because of how little he was used, he was able to count last year as a redshirt year.

That means Deontre Thomas can kick off the 2019 season as a sophomore for Nebraska football. His position coach said he's showing up "time and time again' in drills and practices.

Considering the defensive line has some stars, such as the Davis twins and the Daniels brothers, Thomas showing up is certainly interesting. When talking about a player coming out of nowhere, you hope it's more about him.

The nightmare scenario is the other players aren't having much success.

The defensive line was a real problem for the Nebraska football squad last year. Scott Frost and company want it to be a point of strength in 2019. If Deontre Thomas can aid in that growth, the Huskers can reach the success that is, up to now, just promise.

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