LINCOLN, Neb. — The final week of spring practice has arrived in Lincoln as the Huskers moved one day closer to Saturday’s spring game. However, the Huskers took the field at Memorial Stadium this past Saturday as well and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco had a positive review of what the Huskers were able to accomplish.
“We got so much done as it relates to critical situations; that was the main entree for the day was to get in the stadium,” Diaco said. “That was a situation piece that was great for everyone, nobody more than me, honestly, to get work in there and then to work through all the different critical situations that can happen in the game was a lot of fun, very competitive, great work.”
With spring football nearly compete, Diaco said the main area where the Huskers need to make the biggest strides on defense is communication.
“We need to grow fundamentally and take another step that way,” Diaco said. “We need to grow in our communication and be sure that we’re demonstratively communicating. If there’s an issue right now or an error, it’s based on a communication violation or an eye-discipline violation.”
Diaco said in his defense, the inside linebackers are the ones who need to make the calls for the line of scrimmage while the safeties are in charge of calling out the coverage assignments.
Diaco had significant praise for a few players in the back seven for how they have handled the defensive transition to this point.
“Chris Weber is a stalwart and a leader and doing everything the right way and Aaron Williams who does it all the right way, who gives great energy and is fundamentally sound,” Diaco said. “Chris Jones who does the same, approaches his work with a deep professionalism. There’s some veteran players that are really doing a great job.”
Another player who falls into that category is nose tackle Mick Stoltenberg.
“Mick is intangibly tough,” Diaco said. “He’s a grinding worker. He’s an aggressive player. He’s very intense. He’s highly competitive and his competitive spirit doesn’t allow for him to get down. Tangibly, he’s a big, physical 300-plus-pounder that can knock blockers back, can move and step with both of his feet, and he’s got fast, heavy hands.”
At 6-foot-5, the native of Gretna, Nebraska, is a bit taller than the average nose, but Diaco doesn’t see that as a problem.
“I think if the player can bend and play with angles, the bigger the better,” Diaco said.
The junior-to-be said he has focused on improving his flexibility in order to better perform at his new position.
“I just have to work hard to accommodate for [my height],” Stoltenberg said. “I definitely think there are guys that are my height that play this position and I think as long as I keep leverage and keep my pads down I can perform well at this position.”
Stoltenberg has embraced this spring after not being able to participate last year because of an injury and said the team has made tremendous strides.
“It was huge,” Stoltenberg said. “Obviously last year I wasn’t able to participate in spring ball. Spring ball is a huge, huge tool for us … Especially with the new defense as well. It’s been fun to get reps against our starting offense.”
Saturday will provide a chance for a number of young Huskers to play in front of the fans as an excess of 70,000 fans are expected to be in attendance.
“It’s exciting, obviously, especially for the young guys to get out in front of the crowd,” Stoltenberg said. “I know my first spring game was a real fun experience for me so it will definitely be good for those younger players as well.”