Photo Credit: Eric Francis

‘Healthy Competition’ Alive For Huskers as Midway Point of Season Approaches

September 28, 2021

Good competition within a team is something all teams are after. The Huskers talked a lot during fall camp about how much competition there was. We are normally talking about position battles during spring football and fall camp. Once the season begins we don’t hear about it as much. Unless something has gone wrong.

The subject of open competition came back up Monday. Scott Frost mentioned that the team entered Northwestern game week with open competition. Frost specifically cited right tackle and left guard as positions he wants to give others a “real shot” at.

Offensive coordinator Matt Lubick spoke about how that works for Nebraska on Tuesday.

“We always try to rep two groups throughout the whole year as it is,” Lubick said. “We’ve been trying different combinations on the offensive line especially the last couple of weeks. To have space to even it out we have to really plan it. We talk about each night with how many reps guy’s are going to have.

“In a practice, you probably have 150 plays and each play is scripted and planned. We are now just making sure the right guys are in at the right time so they get all the various looks. It’s just maybe a little more time into that [planning] than we normally do.

There are clearly changes coming to the offensive line this week. Yet that’s not the only position where a shakeup could happen. Each special teams unit has been hit or miss for Nebraska at various times this season. We could see new players on any of the special teams units. Tight ends coach Sean Beckton thinks new guys should be ready to roll. Even as they are getting up to speed during the season.

“Well, the beauty of it is these guys practice with us,” Beckton said. “We have a lot of young guys that have four games to play. We probably could probably use more of those guys on special teams just to try to figure some things out. Obviously on kickoff we’ve tried to move some guys around because we haven’t been happy there the last couple games on the kickoff team so we’ve cycled some guys around there. Punt has been pretty good as far as protection. Kickoff return has been pretty decent when we had some opportunities there.”

The Huskers have moved a couple guys around on kickoff return. Chancellor Brewington is getting looks there. So is Nate Boerkircher from the tight end room. Beckton noted that Chris Hickman is starting to come back and feel a little bit better. When he returns there is hope that he can help out on special teams.

Special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach Mike Dawson thinks competition is always present. It doesn’t matter the sport you play. It’s the driving force to make everyone perform better. He wants players that if they are the number two on the depth chart, they want to challenge number one to take his spot. When the number one guy is practicing or playing in the game he knows he better perform. Someone is always coming for his spot.

“I think when you have a really good team, that’s what happens,” Dawson said. “I think that you’re always in competition. None of this is written in concrete where this is the only guy that can play for us because he’s the one that started the season. A lot of the positions we rotate guys. The more they play, the more it breeds competition. I think that’s healthy for everyone.”

We’ll see how the Huskers handle shuffling things around this week. How quickly the new players get adapted will play a role in the matchup against Northwestern.

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