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Photo Credit: John Peterson

Husker Offense Collectively Learning Marcus Satterfield’s Expansive Playbook

August 15, 2023

Nebraska head coach Matt Rhule likes throwing different situations and circumstances at the Huskers. They want to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. As a result, the Nebraska offense struggled through procedural penalties and issues in Saturday’s closed-door scrimmage. They experienced issues with personnel groupings and the artificial crowd noise pumped into the Memorial Stadium speakers clearly rattled young Huskers. Two days later, the Huskers went back to work in practice to fix those issues.

“I told them it’s easy to lock up there and not be able to perform, but they got better as the scrimmage went on and made some plays later,” offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield told reporters on Monday.

Coaches chalked up some of the initial hesitation to age. The Huskers’ young receiver group is new to that environment and still learning the playbook. Even the furtherest along of standouts now, Jaidyn Doss, Jaylen Lloyd and Malachi Coleman, are just a few weeks into the playbook. And, admittedly, the playbook provides a learning curve. Satterfield throws as much as he can at players, in terms of concept installation, then dials back. It’s easier that way, explained back in the spring. He’s doing the same thing but affirmed that the coaching staff won’t put a young player in a bad position.

“It’s steep but by no stretch of the imagination would we be that hard-headed,” Satterfield said of the playbook. “If that was going to be detrimental to a kid being able to go out there and function and play with his speed then we would scale back anything we had to. We’re not the organization that says this is what we do, you’re going to figure it out. We’re going to maximize the athletic traits of our kids and let them play freely.”

Returning receiver Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda called this offense a different one than any he’s played in. Head coach Matt Rhule and Satterfield have both called this a “position-less offense,” which requires a lot of learning from offensive weapons. The offense hasn’t come close to learning everything yet, calling the playbook “never-ending.” Solving it requires dedication, which he sees from the younger ones who continue studying.

“I think the biggest thing is learning, memorizing formations and concepts because at that point, it’s a position-less offense, that’s how we see it as receivers,” Garcia-Castaneda said. “Once you get to the concepts and see the concepts it’s not really super difficult. As a freshman coming in I think it can be overwhelming at times but it’s just repetition in practice. You’ve got to be in your book every day and you’ve got to put forth the effort to actually want to learn the offense.”

Wide receiver coach Garret McGuire also sees growth within the receiver room. As a former quarterback, he knows how difficult it can be to learn the offense. At a recent practice, he asked Jeremiah Charles if he ran that route at Arlington Martin. Charles said he did. McGuire pointed out that the plays weren’t inherently different, they just call it different things. Understanding the verbiage and terminology is the next step for the explosive youth at receiver.

Coaches acknowledge the learning curve but Rhule has said they won’t use age as an excuse. Following Saturday’s scrimmage, Rhule said there’s a gap between college and high school. Most freshmen say they want to play right away but few are able to prosper doing so. On Monday, McGuire said he liked the approach the young receivers are taking at this point.

“This offense, it can be a lot at first. Especially when you’re coming in this summer and you’re kind of getting a little overwhelmed just from being a college athlete. A student and an athlete,” McGuire said. “The guys they’re taking it head on. We’re still pumping in volume and volume and they’re attacking it. That’s one thing about those guys, their work ethic on and off the field is very impressive.”

Quarterback Jeff Sims runs the offense. He acknowledged the playbook’s thickness but that’s why the Huskers split into groups so players can get reps. There’s no replication for applied and learned experience. That’s also why Sims enjoys the different random situations Rhule throws at them. At a given time, the head coach will throw out a situation and the offense has to run a play in that situation. Then they just go out and play football.

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