A common thread formed from eight players speaking with local media already during preseason camp. Players look good after eight weeks in Nebraska’s new summer system. Blaise Gunnerson bulked up. Elijah Jeudy looked lean and agile. Nick Henrich recovered from an ACL injury. Turner Corcoran felt a larger range of motion. Ru’Quan Buckley feels he’s in the best shape of his life. Each metamorphosis came back to strength and conditioning coach Corey Campbell and director of football nutrition Kristin Coggin.
“I think that is truly what represents the process and what Coach Rhule has brought here,” defensive coordinator Tony White said on Tuesday. “You talk about a guy like Buck (Ru’Quan Buckley). We identified he needs to be closer to this weight. That’s Corey, that’s Kristin with nutrition. Mitch (Cholewinski) with the sports science. Everybody included, constantly giving him the resources he needed in order to get himself in the best shape he’s been in. He’s flying around, he’s happy, he’s being a leader out there.
“I’m really excited for what he’s been able to do and that’s representative of what’s here now.”
Buckley already feels improvement in hip mobility from the team’s daily mobility exercises and stretches. That helps him run better and be more flexible at his base. Buckley struggled with hip mobility in high school and arrived at Nebraska listed 6-foot-6, 280 pounds. On the latest roster, Buckley is listed at 295 pounds.
Fellow defensive lineman Nash Hutmacher said he’s dropped a little body fat (he isn’t sure how much) and added muscle. He summarized his development as “trying to get a little leaner, little quicker, little more agile.” The South Dakota native is still listed at 330 pounds but is noticeably leaner than last season. While Campbell and his staff take a comprehensive approach to strength and conditioning and Coggin leads a dedicated staff of complete nutrition, the program still requires the Huskers to take ownership.
“Part of that comes from Corey, part of that comes from Kristin,” Gunnerson said, “but at the end of the day it’s going to be on the players. It’s going to be on the buy in of the players. Coach Campbell isn’t watching me eat at night, he’s not watching Nash eat at night. So holding ourselves to a high standard, making sure we eat the right things, eating healthy. They’ve been feeding us the right way. Then lifting and mobility have been key focus points as d-linemen. We’re big guys, we’ve got to be able to move as well.”
Defensive line coach Terrance Knighton can testify to the importance of mobility on the line. Knighton developed from a three-star prospect under Rhule at Temple and became a third-round draft pick. Multiple outlets named him to the all-rookie team at Jacksonville before leading an seven-season NFL career. Knighton told Buckley this offseason to specifically work on his flexibility. As the sophomore showed dedication to flexibility, Knighton noticed it’s rubbing off onto teammates.
For some added context, early enrollees are also seeing a change in their bodies. Freshman edge rusher Princewill Umanmielen gained weight during his first three months on campus and wanted to gain about 25 pounds before fall. He came to Nebraska weighing 225 and the official roster, at the moment, lists him at 240. Lincoln Southeast graduate Gunner Gottula is bought in on the other side of the line. He was last listed at Southeast as 6-foot-6, 285 pounds. The Nebraska roster lists him at 295 pounds.
Offensive lineman Ethan Piper mentioned the importance of strength and conditioning after spring ball. Eight weeks with Campbell and Coggin could do wonders for each Husker, he said. Evidence of that program is visible each day in practice.
“Our skinny guys are gaining weight, our big guys are losing weight,” Knighton said. “In particular, I’m just happy with the way our young guys have embraced Kristin, Corey and their staff, and have bought into everything that they’re doing. We have young guys that gained 20, 30 pounds in two, three months, and we have big guys who’ve lost 10, 15 pounds and also gained muscle mass. That’s just a tribute to what Kristin and Corey are doing, they’ve got a great program, and those guys are following it.”