By the time you read this sentence, Nebraska’s football team will be on the backend of winter conditioning. Just a few workouts remain before Spring Break. Then the Huskers will strap in for spring practice.
Nebraska Athletic Director Trev Alberts told Greg Sharpe on Wednesday night’s episode of Sports Nightly that “spring ball is where you find out who’s going to play in the fall.” He shared his enthusiasm for Nebraska’s winter workouts and Matt Rhule’s coaching staff before teasing his thoughts on what Husker fans can expect.
“Everybody should view this as an opportunity, it’s a real opportunity, to impress a new staff,” Alberts said. “Positions are wide open and I think it’ll be highly competitive, I think it will be physical, and I think at the Spring Game our fans will have the opportunity to see a new-look Nebraska football team that might engage a little bit differently than what we’ve been used to.”
Considering this coaching staff’s emphasis on physicality, it’s important for the Huskers to stay healthy enough to sharpen the roster picture. That’s where strength and conditioning coach Corey Campbell comes in. He hand-picked his assistant staff, full of various specialists in order to leave no gap in education and preparedness. They’ve thought of best practices for rest and recovery.
Matt Hobbs joined Campbell’s staff with extensive experience in strength and conditioning, as well as physical therapy. He spent last year as a physical therapy fellow at Northwestern after physical therapy stops at Miami and South Carolina. He’s a certified performance and science specialist. And he completed USA Weightlifting’s sports performance course. CJ White is also a new arrival in Lincoln as an assistant director of strength and conditioning. He served the same position at TCU last season. He was previously director of strength and conditioning at Jackson State. White led all Jackson State programs at that time, including the football program during Deion Sanders’ initial seasons.
Campbell also hired James Heiss from Buffalo, where he spent four seasons. He focused on training and development there, as well as ready-to-play protocols for injured athletes. Heiss specialized in player development in two seasons while working with Campbell and Matt Rhule at Baylor. Tyler Miles fills Campbell’s staff following 1-year stints at both Duke and Miami. He spent years preparing players for the NFL Draft and trained NFL players during the offseason. He holds a degree in kinesiology and is CPR/AED certified.
“We don’t need four or five Corey Campbells in the weight room, I have a niche that I fill,” Campbell said last month. “The other guys on my staff, they fill certain niches. One of those is Coach Hobbs, the physical therapist. He has an eye for things I don’t have an eye for in terms of movements, how you return an athlete who may have sustained an injury back to the field safely.”
Campbell said he assembled his staff to fill those gaps and trusts each one of them. He explained that through workouts, the athletes bodies are being broken down. His staff takes a holistic approach to recovery. That includes nutrition, sleep, hydration and athletic medicine. Campbell attested that it takes a staff to ensure players perform at a high level every Saturday.
Campbell was one of Rhule’s first hires. Rhule completely trusts Campbell and his staff because they’ve worked together before and they share similar beliefs.
“He can hold you really accountable and they still know he’s for them,” Rhule said. “But he also is really knowledgeable. He understands all the science of what he does in the weight room. I want us to be a place that is on the cutting edge of everything sports science wise, player development wise, recovery wise.”
Campbell lent his expertise to the Go Big Project. The new weight and recovery facilities there were recommended by Campbell and his staff. Their direct knowledge and years of experience influenced those spaces in the multi-million-dollar facility. Campbell explained he “had a ton of input” in the new facility, from the weight racks to recovery machines.
Rhule’s mentality includes a belief that a player’s best ability is availability. In order to do that, they need to remain healthy. Football’s a demanding game, especially with Rhule and his coaching staff. It’s of the utmost importance to this coaching staff that the players who sacrifice their bodies are cared for in the highest terms.
“Going into that new facility, that was a primary focus in it,” Campbell said. “It’s our job to supply these athletes with the best of the best. And that’s very important with coach Rhule.”