LINCOLN — It was a beautiful day at the Hawks Center and outdoor practice fields, as the Huskers took the field for the first practice of spring football. Topping out around 70 degrees, the weather could not have been more perfect for new defensive coordinator Bob Diaco as he got to work on the practice fields.
Diaco is exactly what people thought he would be, which is very enthusiastic and intense. During the first defensive drill of the day, Diaco stopped a group who he didn’t feel ran out on the field with enough excitement.
“Run out like you want to be out,” Diaco said.
The enthusiasm from Diaco was clear, which is something that did not shock Coach Mike Riley at all.
“I think that his enthusiasm was a lot like the interview,” Riley said. “That was not surprising to me. He has an enthusiasm in his teaching that is contagious. The thing that was really exciting to me was the interview and how he talked football. So what you saw today was not a surprise to me and I believe that is who he is.”
Linebacker Chris Weber agreed, adding that the enthusiasm is just a part of who this Nebraska team will now be.
“I think guys are excited but it’s going to become who we are,” Weber said. “I think we get to come out here on a 70-degree day and play football. It’s fun and it should be like that.”
More news and notes from Saturday’s open practice:
>> A quick update on the Huskers’ injury front: Linebacker Tyrin Ferguson was on the sidelines with his knee wrapped. He was limping considerably, but he seemed to be in high spirits. Defensive end Collin Miller was on crutches during practice and his right foot was wrapped. He is recovering from a toe injury.
Wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson Jr. is recovering from an illness that has been plaguing him since December. Riley confirmed Johnson had an appendectomy in December and is suffering lingering symptoms as a result. The Husker staff is hoping to have Johnson back on the field after spring break. In the meantime, he ran quite a few sprints in one of the end zones and worked on a stationary bike.
>> Diaco wasn’t the only coach making his debut on Saturday. Safeties coach Bob Elliott was also on the field, sharing in the high level of excitement. He was right there meeting and greeting with players as they stretched, and the players seemed drawn to him as a result.
>> A position that will receive quite a bit of focus in 2017 will be the quarterback. Tanner Lee, Patrick O’Brien, Tristan Gebbia and Andrew Bunch were all suited up and practicing on Saturday. While the Huskers have quite a bit to sort through with the group, Riley was happy with the first day.
“Frankly, the quarterbacks operated pretty competently with what we were doing,” Riley said. “Sometimes it can be a lot sloppier on the first day, and I thought it was pretty good. I thought it was pretty clean and the operation of everything was pretty good. So, it was a good start.
>> Jerald Foster spoke about becoming a vocal leader for the Huskers, while also noting that Mick Stoltenberg is becoming one as well. Interestingly enough, the two are roommates and have been using one another to learn and improve.
“I feel like us going against each other is only going to make us better,” Foster said. “One thing I don’t know if a lot of people know is that we’re roommates so it’s fun to go home and talk about what the whole day has been. I’m happy to be able to have someone that is that good on the other side and somebody that’s going to be working just like me. It’ll allow us both to get better.”
>> Weber is enjoying his time getting to know Diaco so far, saying he’s a “fun guys to play for.” Beyond that, Diaco has stressed the need for solid linebackers at Nebraska, which is something Weber appreciates.
“There’s never been a good defense that doesn’t have good linebackers,” Weber said. “I think just the four of us in general playing well will be huge for our defense.”
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Erin is the Deputy Editor and Digital Marketing Strategist for Hail Varsity. She has covered Nebraska athletics since 2012, which has included stops at Bleacher Report, Cox Media Group’s Land of 10, and even Hail Varsity (previously from 2012-2017). She has also been featured on the Big Ten Network, NET’s Big Red Wrap-Up, and a varsity of radio shows nationwide. When not covering the Huskers, Erin is probably at Chipotle.