Given all of the other news from Monday's press conference, it would've been easy to miss this but if you get some time go back and watch the interview or read the transcript from safety Tre Neal's time at the podium. Scott Frost called him a "coach on the field" on this week's Nebraska Football Show, which is one of those terms that gets used so often that it typically means next to nothing.
But with Neal, it actually might be true. At this point, five days before the opener, he's the only player on the roster who has actually played in this defensive scheme. That helps.
"Playing in this defense, the no fear of failure, it kind of focuses you to take chances," Neal said Monday. "Of course, there's going to be times when you get beat, but that's just the nature of the game. Sometimes you're going to get beat and sometimes you're going to make a spectacular play . . . You'd rather take that chance than be afraid to not do it because when it's time to make that play, you're not going to do it. That's why we preach so much to attack and make plays."
The rest of the Huskers have been immersed in that mindset for eight months now, but Neal's the only one who has actually seen it unfold in a game. It's one thing to hear it's OK to make a mistake if you make that mistake while being aggressive. It's another thing to make that mistake on the practice field and then yet another thing still to have it happen in an actual game. Everyone else on Nebraska's defense can talk about doing that, but Neal's the only one who has actually done it.
To put it another way: there's a reason true freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez is "locker buddies" with Neal.
"We’ve known Adrian is very mature for his age for a long time, really since we recruited him," Frost said.
The staff still paired him with Neal anyway, hoping the advanced-for-his-age quarterback might pick up a thing or two from the advanced-for-his-age safety.
Neal knows poise when he sees it, and he's seen it from Martinez in fall camp. But there's another level, a higher wall to scale, that the freshman quarterback will experience on Saturday.
"Eighteen-year-olds with 22-year-old guys, 23-year-old-guys, running around, yelling, barking at each other, that can overwhelm guys," Neal said. "It's similar to how [UCF quarterback] McKenzie Milton was. It doesn't bother them and I think that's what makes him special. Adrian is going to be a really special player here, but just kind of keeping him under control on Saturday and I tell him it's a totally different beast when there's 90,000 people and you can't hear anything."
"Control" is an interesting word to choose there. Behind avoiding turnovers, I'd put that trait No. 2 on the must-have list for Martinez in his first season as quarterback. Martinez has the athletic ability to do amazing things, it's knowing when the amazing thing is the right thing that could take some time.
But that's probably part of the reason Martinez is paired with Neal. As I think Nebraska fans are about to find out, Tre Neal is very much in control.
The Grab Bag
- Former Nebraska linebacker Avery Roberts will reportedly transfer to Oregon State and be reunited with his former position coach Trent Bray.
- We recorded a special, quarterback-news-only edition of the podcast late last night. Listen to it here.
- Couple of Nebraska volleyball updates as John Cook offered his impressions of the Huskers' opening weekend, then pulled no punches when discussing the NCAA's decision not to grant Brooke Smith an immediate-eligibility waiver.
- There was some non-QB news on Monday for the Huskers. Here's a quick press conference recap as well as a top-five video from yesterday's media session.
Today's Song of Today