With seven practices in the books, the Huskers have nearly reached the halfway point of spring ball. Offensive line coach Greg Austin’s message for his position group in the second half is simple.
“I want to see urgency, urgency,” Austin said. “When I say urgency, I mean urgency to get the signal, urgency to get down, get set, get your eyes up to the defense, urgency to understand. There’s one word that I’m going to say when I get into the meeting room with those guys, it’s urgency. Everything needs to be a heck of a lot more urgent. When you have guys that have been part of an offense that huddled and kind of looked at the play that was ran last, we’re still getting to that routine. We need to be a heck of a lot more urgent.”
For a senior like Cole Conrad, that urgency is ever present. He doesn’t have the luxury of taking his time to figure things out. He gets one crack at this.
“It’s difficult a little bit, but this coaching staff’s great,” Conrad said. “Right off the bat we’ve clicked. It’s just been fun so far and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store and what we’re going to do this year. It’s going to be fun.”
Fortunately, at this point, Conrad has had plenty of experience in adjusting to a new scheme under new coaches.
“It’s difficult but this is my second one so I’m getting used to it, I guess,” Conrad said. “You have to take what you learned from the previous coaching staff because they had a lot of good things and stuff like that and you have to combine them with what these guys are teaching because we’ve got a good coaching staff here. You just have to take it and run with it.”
One player who has taken his opportunity and run with it is redshirt freshman walk-on Hunter Miller who has gotten plenty of reps at center with Conrad and Michael Decker both working their way back from injuries.
“He’s an even-keeled kid,” Austin said about Miller. “As a center, you can’t let the highs get too high, you can’t let the lows get too low. He does a good job of really making the calls when he needs to make them, he’s a voice out there. We’re still working on instilling the confidence in the man to the right, to the left of him.”
Miller missed his entire first season on campus with a shoulder injury.
“To be honest with you, when we first started I didn’t know that the first practice of spring ball was his first collegiate practice ever,” Austin said. “I was really kind of amazed by how he was able to fill in and really do a pretty dang good job early on. As the reps have gone on, we’ll continue to work on his technique and obviously his leadership and the calls that need to be made.”
Conrad, who rose from walk-on to starter like Miller is trying to do, said he’s seen some good things out of the young lineman from Stromsburg, Nebraska.
“I definitely think the first couple practices he’s done some really good things, so I think that getting that tape and building up his resume has been really good for him,” Conrad said.
That being said, it has been tough for Conrad to miss some of these practices and to be limited in more recent ones as he works his way back to full strength. Still, Conrad and Decker are doing their best to learn as much as they can while also helping the young players — Miller and true freshman Will Farniok — who are just learning how to play the center position.
“It’s tough because you want to be out there taking the full team reps and things like that but you also have to look at it and you just have to help the younger guys, especially Will and Hunter from the center position, and you just have to teach them what you’ve learned a little bit and just let them go, let them cut it loose,” Conrad said.
From true freshman to fifth-year senior, with most of the installation done, the time to pick up the intensity is now. There are only seven practices left before the spring game and Austin wants to see his linemen giving everything they’ve got.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.