After the long, long offseason, game week is finally here for the Huskers and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf is ready for his offense to face off against someone other than the Nebraska defense.
“I think as it gets closer and closer, it’s exciting,” Langsdorf said. “This has been a long camp; it’s been a longer one than we’ve had in a while just because of the rule changes and starting earlier. I think that everybody’s anxious to play. The butterflies are flying around pretty good.”
The first challenge of the season is an Arkansas State squad that features a ferocious front seven including Sun Belt Player of the year Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, a 6-foot-2, 244-pound defensive end who recorded 13.5 sacks last year.
“You’ve got the nation’s leader in sacks who’s going to break the record; the guy is a good pass rusher, so we’re going to have to have a lot of help knowing where he is, making sure we’re getting him covered up and not letting him just go to town,” Langsdorf said.
It’s not just Rolland-Jones, however. Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh said the Red Wolves have talent across the defensive line.
“They’ve got some good players, obviously,” Cavanaugh said. “Defensive ends are both good players — 54 [Caleb Caston] and 11 [Roland-Jones] — that can rush the passer, athletic guys that can run. I think the two D-tackles are good players — 25 [Dee Liner] and 91 [Donovan Ransom] — they’re physical guys, they anchor in there, so obviously we have to do a great job of leverage and moving people.”
However, Langsdorf said he is confident in the offensive line’s ability to deal with the Arkansas State pass rush based on the progress it has shown throughout camp.
“I feel good about our progress up front,” Langsdorf said. “I think that we’re improved, but we have to do a great job of helping those edge players, and those edge players have to handle [Rolland-Jones]. He’s going to be a threat, he’s going to be a challenge. I think they were sixth in the country in sacks as a group last year, so that’s a big challenge for our offensive line. I started the scouting report with that and made sure that they understood exactly that this group can rush the passer, they’ve proven that and it’s going to be a tough challenge for their line.”
Cavanaugh said Bob Diaco’s defense should have the Huskers well-prepared for anything they might see on Saturday.
“Holy moly we’ve seen a lot of things,” Cavanaugh said. “It’s been really fun. You have to lock into your roles. If they get us with something, they better learn fast and that’s what coaching and learning is all about.”
Outside of slowing down the Arkansas State pass rushers, Langsdorf said he is hoping to see a clean football game with minimal mental errors by the offense.
“We want to have good pace and good tempo, we want to look sharp and take care of the ball, all of the things that help win games,” Langsdorf said. “We want to be clicking on all cylinders. We don’t want to have to take a timeout because we were in the wrong formation or we lined up incorrectly or we had a bunch of blunders here and there. We just want to play a good, clean game. When you watch us, we want to look fast and sharp, and great pace — I think that’s the biggest thing that we’ve talked about through camp.”
>> Blackshirts were awarded to 16 members of the defense on Monday afternoon. The defensive players and coaches were not made available to the media, but a couple of the offensive assistants shared their thoughts about the Blackshirt tradition.
Cavanaugh: “I love it; it’s awesome. I told Bob Diaco what a great camp it’s been. We’ve gotten tons of different looks. It’s been a great camp with a lot of different situations … Just the pride that Nebraska defense has; getting that Blackshirt is a big deal. It’s pretty awesome. It kind of gives you goosebumps.”
Wide receivers coach Keith Williams: “I’m trying to figure out a way to get something on the offense, because that definitely is good to see those guys earn those Black jerseys. It lets you know it’s almost time to play.”
>> With the injury setbacks junior Kenyan Williams has siffered, redshirt freshman J.D. Spielman will have an even more important role for the Huskers early in his redshirt freshman season.
“I think he has got great quickness,” Langsdorf said. “I like him in that inside position because of that quickness, but he’s a good route-runner too. He’s kind of built like [former Oregon State standout receiver] James Rodgers. He’s probably not as strong, but he is quick and he’s a good route-runner. He’s tough, he’s able to make contested catches inside, but he’s also able to work on a safety and a linebacker across the middle. I think that he’s going to an exciting threat inside.”
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.