The Huskers got outside and into Memorial Stadium during today’s practice to get a feel for the elements. Interim head coach Mickey Joseph said on Thursday that quarterbacks wanted to get a feel for throwing in the elements. He felt good after the detailed practice, saying the Huskers were “on point with things” and that he felt good where they’re at going into Friday’s pre-game practice.
On Tuesday Joseph talked about the health benefits from the bye week and how the Huskers needed that for this last stretch of games. On Thursday he shed more light onto just how player health is impacting different positions.
Rahmir Johnson and Jaquez Yant are both listed as Nebraska’s No. 2 running back this week. Yant’s played and scored at different points this season while Johnson’s only offensive contribution was the long run just before halftime against Purdue. Joseph said Johnson needed to get healthy first. He’s “stacked days” and practiced well this week, the head coach said.
Tommi Hill shuffled from defensive back to wide receiver in the week leading up to the Rutgers game. Against Purdue he provided depth in a secondary riddled with injuries. Joseph said Hill’s responding well and is more comfortable back at receiver after practicing through the bye week. Hill hasn’t lined up at receiver since high school but Joseph still saw a capable athlete during those reps. The former receivers coach also credited the work of Mike Cassano with the receivers group for preparations.
“What we’re not going to do is have robots, we don’t coach the athleticism out of them,” Joseph said. “Before we do that I’ll stop a coach. So Cass has done a great job with him getting him ready, he’s a very athletic kid. That’s his strength so we got to let him play at his strength.”
Also in the receivers group, Omar Manning is unavailable for Saturday’s game.
Injuries already dwindled Nebraska’s offensive line. The Huskers are without Teddy Prochazka and Kevin Williams Jr. already. Broc Bando started every game up until Purdue, when he didn’t play at all. They’ll keep checking with Bando to see if he’s ready to play by game time.
Joseph’s comfortable with Isaac Gifford in the nickel position and his solid body of work this season. He also credited Omar Brown and Javin Wright for coming in when needed to give Gifford a break.
Nebraska’s linebackers suffered a season’s loss with Nick Henrich’s knee injury on a tackle against Purdue. It’s a big loss for Nebraska’s defense but there’s some consolation in Luke Reimer’s return. Joseph said he’s proud of senior Chris Kolarevic and freshman Ernest Hausmann for elevating their game from 20 to 60 snaps.
“We always talk to these kids about how even if you’re not the starter you have to prepare like you start,” Joseph said. “So you won’t be surprised when you’re in the game.”
Instilling that mindset has been a focus since Joseph took over as head coach.
Joseph also said Nebraska’s offense needs to execute the plays called against a stout Illinois defense. He echoed his statements from earlier in the week that challenged the Huskers’ physicality.
“We’ve got to try to be the most physical team on the field every Saturday,” Joseph said. “That’s what Nebraska was built on. Nebraska football was built on being physical. And that’s what we got to get to.”