Spring ball is nearly in the books for the Nebraska football team. The Huskers have logged 14 practices and now all that remains is the spring game on Saturday, though the format for the scrimmage had not yet been set when players and coaches spoke with the media on Wednesday.
The new offensive system has been he talk of spring, but defensive lineman Ty Robinson said he’s excited for the defense to show what it can do on Saturday as well.
“After 14 [practices] I really see ourselves moving in the forward direction,” Robinson said. “I think Saturday is going to show what kind of new things the’ve got going on on offense, kind of the new scheme, the new way that they’re playing on offense. The defense stepped it up. Every year, I know when guys leave everyone wonders if the defense is not going to show up but I can tell you this, the defense showed up this spring.”
The offensive changes have provided a different kind of challenge for the defense this spring as the Blackshirts have faced different techniques, formations and plays than they’ve grown accustomed to over the last few years, and it’s helping them grow as well.
“Sometimes you try to listen to the lingo, trying to kind of get an edge, seeing where they’re going to go, what kind of block you’re going to get,” Robinson said. “And sometimes it’s the direction — you think the ball is going to go one way and they’re doing same side power, same side counter or something like that and you’re not ready for that. They’ve got one block where the center comes at you and that guard will come down and bump you as you’re going to the right, and he’ll go up to a linebacker and get you bumped out of your gap, making it easier for that center. I think that’s one of the most challenging blocks we’ve had so far.”
The defensive linemen have gotten plenty of reps against the new offense as there are only seven of them currently practicing: Robinson, Nash Hutmacher, Mosai Newsom, Marquis Black, Jailen Weaver, Ru’Quan Buckley and walk-on Colton Feist.
Robinson is counting on some reinforcements come the fall, whether it be Casey Rogers getting healthy, incoming freshman Brodie Tagaloa or future additions from the transfer portal. That should take a load off the group that has logged so many snaps this spring.
“I can say that most of us have over 400 game, live reps this spring ball, just body wise,” Robinson said. “But we all made it through so it shows us what we can do.”
Robinson said he’s a bit nicked up, but it’s nothing that a week off — which the Huskers will get after the spring game — won’t fix. Robinson is only a sophomore by eligibility but is heading into his fourth year of college and is shouldering a heavy load for a defensive line that lost four if tis top six from last season.
“I can definitely tell you what it feels like to be old now… I feel like I’m in a 35-year-old body,” Robinson quipped.
Robinson is feeling older in more ways than one. He sees himself as the veteran in that room now, especially with Rogers — who is one year ahead of Robinson — unable to participate this spring.
“There’s nobody older than me now in the room, so I’ve kind of taken over that leadership role, at least for the interior guys,” Robinson said. “I’m pushing those guys to try to push myself every day. Pass rush is still the number one key for me; I’ve got to get a pass rush down. I’m big enough to stop the run but pass rush, I think, is still a work in progress.”
Last week, defensive line coach Mike Dawson mentioned Robinson being one of the more vocal guys on the defensive line.
“Certainly Ty does a pretty good job being vocal,” Dawson said. “Colton Feist is a guy that’s been around for a long time. He’s another one when he talks, they listen. I think those are two that probably have emerged. Casey Rogers isn’t on the field right now but he’s certainly someone in the meeting room and in the weight room that is in these guys’ ear all the time. Casey’s done a nice job; it’s hard when you’re injured.”
As for the pas rush, Robinson said Dawson’s tutelage in that area has really made a difference as he’s slid over from outside linebackers to coaching the whole front.
“Coach Dawson has really helped us understand how to rush in the interior,” Robinson said. “With our power moves, if we long-arm, instead of using one arm we use two arms until we feel them kind of brace and then we can shrug them down and throw them. If we’re going to use a speed move, double swipe, kind of all the same things. Really his main focus was getting vertical a lot more than reading the guy. We’re going off the ball and really just focusing on getting vertical.”
Dawson was the defensive line coach when Nebraska was recruiting Robinson, but by the time the big man from Arizona made it to campus Dawson had already left to coach for the New York Giants and Tony Tuioti had taken over in Lincoln. Dawson returned to Nebraska the following season, but to coach outside linebackers. With Tuioti leaving for Oregon this offseason, Dawson took over and Robinson finally gets to play for him directly.
“He’s an awesome coach,” Robinson said. “He’s really smart with what he’s got. Everything he’s told us to do, it’s worked, so I’m just going to keep listening.”
Next up is the spring game, a celebration of Nebraska football and something of a reward for the players after five weeks of practices. They’ll get a chance to show the fans what they’ve been working on.
“I love seeing the fans every year,” Robinson said. “I think this will be my second spring game. Just to see everyone come out from all corners of Nebraska and all the little cracks that you don’t even know about. This potentially could be the only game they get to come to so anytime I get to interact with those guys is awesome.”
Saturday will be busy as the coaches try to balance getting some good work done in their final practice of the spring while showing the various recruits they’ve invited to the game a good time. Players like Robinson plan to chip in with the recruiting side of things as well.
“At the spring game, I’ve definitely got to introduce myself, kind of show them around and kind of let them know how Coach Dawson coaches, what kind of the program we’ve got here and the culture,” Robinson said. “Especially with the fans being there, I think that helps a lot too.”
Saturday’s scrimmage is set to begin at 1 p.m. at Memorial Stadium, and whatever format Scott Frost and his staff settle on, the small but determined group of defensive linemen led by Robinson will be ready to close out their spring with a few more good reps.