Huskers prepare for ‘unknown’ at QB

“Unknown” is the name of the game in Husker practice, with Nebraska’s first road game of the year on the horizon Saturday against Purdue. After a quarterback switch five games in that leaves the start to true freshman Danny Etling, Nebraska defensive coordinator John Papuchis said Nebraska had limited options after watching the limited snaps that Etling has taken so far.

“We got online and started watching a little bit of his high school stuff,” Papuchis said. “Just to kind of get a feel for who he is and what he’s about. He’s a big, strong-armed kid, he’s a talented player. Obviously it’s his first start, so will see, but we respect his arm.”

Defensive backs coach Terry Joseph said the Husker coaching staff has had to be careful watching high school tape, avoiding highlight reels.

“You want to watch as many snaps as you can, and you want to stay away from cut-ups. You want to kind of see a whole game where you can see the flow of the game and see whats gives him trouble, what’s he comfortable seeing, and what he’s not comfortable doing, and kind of dictate our gameplan a little bit off what we see.”

-Joseph said Nebraska doesn’t necessarily get to be as aggressive against the young quarterback as we might think. Since the coaches don’t have much film on Etling, Joseph said the defensive backs will have to feel out Purdue’s offensive gameplan and adjust a little more than usual.

“The good thing is, is that the way we try to teach the defense off of concepts is that the adjustments that we make in any game are going to be tweaks to our original gameplan,” he said. “We never go into a game and change something from ground zero. It’ll just be a little tweak here or there to change up the look, or send a different guy on a blitz, or change our leverage late in the down, but we really don’t like starting from ground zero unless something major is going on.”

Joseph added that his defensive backs have to be careful when getting aggressive this weekend.

“You want to always stay within your technique,” he said. “You’ve got to be more disciplined probably because if you start getting too greedy, then you start getting the double moves and getting yourself out of position, so if we stay within the system we can have some success.”

-Defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski also said from his standpoint, it’s not as easy as sending cover zero blitzes to rattle the young quarterback.

“It’s like any quarterback, you want to do that and you want to do it with a four-man rush,” he said. “That’s a challenge to our guys up front, but also you’ve got to be smart. You just can’t pin your ears back, you’ve got to keep smart rush lanes, especially in the quick game. You’ve got to close throwing windows and you’ve got to keep him leveraged.”

“You always want to rattle the quarterback, but you can’t do that by cover zero and cover one all day.”

-When it comes to that smarter play on the defensive line, Kaczenski added that the bye week in combination with a game against an offense like Illinois’ went a long way in helping the defensive linemen communicate.

“There’s times that you may not be in the ideal defense, as long as all 11 guys are on the same play, you’ve got an opportunity to be successful,” he said. “You look at a lot of our breakdowns, a lot of our busts when we haven’t had success this year, really it’s been one guy, it’s been two guys. It hasn’t been a lot of wholesale busts.”

Kaczenski said those weeks helped refine the defense so all 11 defenders got on the same page on every single play.

“I think that was a great learning tool for us especially having a bye week where you know, we forced our guys to talk.”