LINCOLN, Neb. — Husker practice rolled on Tuesday afternoon despite the un-spring-like temperatures and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said the team has made good progress learning the new scheme.
“They’re focused, they’ve done a nice job with the install up to this point,” Diaco said. “When you put pads on and you still have to install, it’s easy to get exasperated. They’ve stayed locked in, they’ve tried hard and they’ve continued to work hard. It’s a good hard-working, diligent group.”
Linebackers coach Trent Bray said the transition for the coaches has been smooth in part thanks to the work they put in as a staff prior to the first practice.
“The good thing is we got a chance as a staff to sit down for a long time before spring ball started and hash out exactly what [Diaco] wants, what he expects, so once we actually got to the practice field that wasn’t hard,” Bray said.
Diaco and Bray are working together to coach the linebackers as they shift to the 3-4 and Bray said he has enjoyed the experience.
“It’s actually been really great, learning the new system,” Bray said. “Working with Coach Diaco as much as I’ve been able to has been great for me professionally and has been great for I think what we’re going to do on defense, or what we can do.”
Likewise, Diaco had nothing but praise for Bray.
“It’s great. Coach Bray is a great teacher,” Diaco said. “He really is wonderful in the room and on the grass. The positions do a lot together, but we do a lot apart. There are moments in the room that I have to work and moments when he has to work. Then we come on the grass and it’s the same. I feel very fulfilled being on the staff with him and I’m learning a lot and picking up a lot of things.”
Bray said the two are trading off working with the outside and inside linebackers, and that the difference between the two positions is greater than it was in a 4-3 defense.
Bray highlighted a few players that have done really well making the adjustment to their new positions in the early going.
“Chris [Weber] and Dedrick [Young] have done a great job,” Bray said. “Aaron Williams has done a great job. Young guys like Avery [Roberts] have done a good job, JoJo [Domann]. There’s been a lot of good stuff that’s taken place so far.”
In fact, Bray said he thinks Young is a better fit for the 3-4 than a 4-3 anyway.
“I think it fits his strengths better than what we had him doing a year ago, to be honest with you,” Bray said. “He’s 235. He was always really good in the box. That’s where he’s going to be all the time now. He’s a good zone dropper, doing some more of that than the man concepts a year ago. I think it fits a lot of what he does.”
Safeties coach Bob Elliott also offered some high praise for Aaron Williams mostly unprompted.
“I will say this: Aaron Williams is as smart a player as I’ve ever been around,” Elliott said. “He’s grasping things that I never dreamed that a safety could grasp this quickly. I really feel good about him. He’s going to be a pleasure to coach … He’s a very good communicator, he thinks conceptually. If you just memorize assignments in football, you’re going to make some mistakes and you’re not going to be consistent. But Aaron has a way of conceptualizing the coverages and the assignments; he puts things with each other in packages in his mind.”
According to Bray, the depth chart is definitely in flux at this stage, both in order and in position.
“It’s going to change constantly, based on performance, based on what they do,” Bray said. “That’s the biggest thing. They’ll create it. The guys that perform the best and can execute the things they need to for their position will be the guys that play. Opportunity for everyone is there.”
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.