Erik Chinander talks to press
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Husker Defense Ready to Be Back in Pads: ‘That’s When the Fun Comes’

October 05, 2020

Coach Scott Frost is ready to see his team back in pads. Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander is too, but Nebraska can’t put on shoulder pads until at least Sept. 30. That’s the date daily testing is expected to begin around the Big Ten.

“That’s when the fun comes, but we have to feed off each other’s energy,” Chinander said during media availability on Tuesday.

But there seems to still be some lack of clarity on when that day actually is. When asked, Chinander noted that it could be tomorrow but it could also be “whenever the Big Ten says so.” It all depends on when “the conference-provided testing is on each campus,” Frost said last week.

In Nebraska’s case, the Huskers have started the daily antigen testing. That means it’s just a waiting game until the green light is given, and it seems like it’ll be Wednesday. If it is, it will be the first time Nebraska will put on pads in 10 months. That much time is not just tough for players physically, but also mentally. As Chinander put it, “leadership is a contact sport.” Not having the opportunity to be in-person, and often in pads, is less than ideal.

The last several months have meant a lot of Zoom calls between coaches and players. When everyone was able to return to campus and start working out, the focus was on fundamentals.

As Nebraska shifts into pads, the staff will have to be careful not to overdo it.

“The fine line is getting them ready to play a football game, but not running them into the ground,” Chinander said. “It’s not ideal, but pretty much everyone’s in the same boat.”

Other news and notes:

>> The football team is taking the antigen test every day right after dinner. Senior outside linebacker JoJo Domann praised the Nebraska medical staff for doing everything it can during this time.

>> Big Ten stadiums won’t allow fans this season, so Chinander said “it’s going to be bring your own juice a little bit, bring your own energy.”

>> Domann said a goal for the defense this year is to “raise the bar.” He noted that the Huskers have had an extra three months to work with strength and conditioning coach Zach Duval and that they are focused on winning in the box.

>> Defensive backs coach Travis Fisher said this year’s wide receivers are harder to cover than last year’s. He said that while his group had to worry about two or three in 2019, they have to worry now about six or seven different receivers.

>> Nebraska senior safety Deontai Williams had a couple of young players he said he’s been impressed by. One was Isaac Gifford, whose physicality has been impressive in the secondary according to Williams.

The other was redshirt freshman Javin Wright, who was set in the spring to add work at outside linebacker to his jobs in the secondary.

“He’s like another JoJo but younger,” Williams said.

>> Fisher said it’s “unfortunate” to lose three out of the seven Florida signees from the 2020 recruiting class, but said it’s hard for kids to move away from home. That’s especially true in 2020 with how different the experience has been.

>> Nebraska officially updated the schedule on its website, noting the Huskers’ season opener against Ohio State will take place at 11 a.m. on FOX. As for the schedule itself, what does the team think?

“To be the best, you have to beat the best,” Domann said.

Chinander agrees, noting that it’s an opportunity for the team.

“We didn’t come to Nebraska to play a bunch of games that didn’t matter,” Chinander said.

He also noted that he can only “control what I can control, I can’t control the schedule,” so the Huskers are focused more on preparation.

As for Williams, he’s just glad to have a season.

“The season’s back on and I’m fired up,” Williams said. “I’m ready to hit. I’m ready to show what I got. I still have a lot to prove.”

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