This is supposed to be Nebraska’s bye week. Instead, the Huskers are preparing for a 4-4 Bethune-Cookman team to come to Lincoln on Saturday. Game-planning this week comes with the added challenge of trying to find ways to both get coaches out to recruit and get players time to recover.
That started Monday with an off day. Some got into the weight room but most slept in. All talked about the benefit of it.
“Twelve weeks in a row is tough,” head coach Scott Frost said Monday during his weekly press conference. “You hear NFL coaches all the time when they win talk about ‘Victory Mondays’ and ‘See ya on Wednesday.’ Not only do our guys need to rest a little physically, this has been long and a little bit stressful for these guys and I think a day where they don’t have to come into the building is positive.
“We’re going to have to make up for that time tomorrow, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, make sure our guys are dialed in and ready, we just kind of felt like one day off would benefit us more than trying to get them back out there again.”
And while the team will look for ways to squeeze out some benefits a bye week brings, there’s still work to be done. Nebraska’s first win of the season needs to build to the second. When asked about penalties, Frost said it was good to see them down, but “you talk about things we need to improve, that’s one of them.” Special teams, particularly punt and kickoff coverage, are a few more.
Another area entering into last week seems a little more secure now. Nebraska hadn’t scored on consecutive first-half drives in any of its first six games. It scored touchdowns on three of four to open against Minnesota.
“We’re just starting to execute at a much better rate,” Frost said. “Our percentage of plays that everybody executed on was a lot higher than it has been in weeks past and it’s been moving in that direction for a while.
“The offense is starting to understand the system. You can really tell on Mondays when we put a new game plan in — and the majority of it is stuff they’ve repped before, it’s just different looks, different formations and things like that — the last couple weeks, they just go out and run through it like they’ve been practicing those plays for two weeks. That’s when you know guys are starting to understand the scheme, understand their individual roles within the scheme and how to make something work.”
Other News and Notes
>> Sophomore safety JoJo Domann isn’t changing positions, but he is moving down into an outside linebacker role for the first time this season. He popped up in the OLB2 spot on the Huskers’ new depth chart next to Alex Davis and behind Tyrin Ferguson.
Frost said it’s a little out of needing a body there with Ferguson still “gimpy a little bit,” but also because Domann can make the transition smoothly.
“That’s just a guy that knows safety that can also play nickel for us,” Frost said. “Our SAM backer and nickel, outside backer and nickel, is kind of interchangeable … and he’s a smart enough kid to know both those spots.”
>> Freshman running back Miles Jones continues to find his name on the depth chart each week but has yet to see time on the field. Frost said his time is hopefully coming.
“We’re going to try and use him as much as we can when the opportunity is there,” he said. “He’s like several other freshmen, he’s really close. We just need to see consistency to feel good about having them out there when the chips are down. Hopefully that time is coming before this season is over.”
>> Linebacker Mohamed Barry was in the weight room on his day off.
“This is my life. I love working out, I love recovering, I love football. No better thing than to wake up and do what you love to do.”
>> Safety Tre Neal said when he looks at the corner play the Huskers had in the spring compared to now, the growth in technique is "outrageous." Both Dicaprio Bootle and Lamar Jackson are playing with “20 times” the confidence right now as what they had then.
Neal also added Frost’s demeanor Saturday after his first win as a Husker coach was "right up there with his most celebratory moments." That includes UCF’s Peach Bowl victory over Auburn in January.
>> Adrian Martinez had a weekend, to say the least.
The freshman quarterback was graded out as the highest-rated Big Ten quarterback by Pro Football Focus. On Monday he was named a Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week. (When Frost was asked about it, he acted shocked Martinez had to share the honor with someone else. He asked who else got it and, when told it was Purdue’s Rondale Moore, he just smiled and said, “Oh yeah, he deserves it too.”) His teammates Monday morning raved about him.
“When he plays like that, I'm not scared of any team in this conference,” lineman Jerald Foster said.
Linebacker Luke Gifford added that Martinez gives the defense that same level of confidence.
When asked what kind of impact Martinez’s play can have on recruiting, Frost said there’s no question Martinez has become a selling point.
“If I was a receiver or running back or tight end coming into a program and I knew somebody had a freshman quarterback playing as well as Adrian is, I would want to be at that school,” Frost said. “You want to see where our program is going. That’s a huge piece when you've got the right guy under center and I think a lot of guys that we have had in to visit can recognize that.”
Martinez, in the fashion most have come to expect, deflected and said he gets too much credit for just doing his job.
>> Frost called senior back Devine Ozigbo, who had his third 150-plus-yard game in the last four weeks Saturday, a “Sunday back.” Frost hasn’t held back in his praise for the growth Ozigbo has made in his game since he took over.
“I think he’s a step-and-a-half faster than he was at the beginning of spring ball last year,” Frost said. “I think he’s leaned out, he’s gotten faster, for a guy his size he makes people miss. I think you were able to see his top-end speed the other day, when he broke them he finished them. He’s big and strong enough to run power.”
Frost even went so far as comparing him to Royce Freeman, a back Frost coached at Oregon before moving to Orlando. Freeman ran for 5,621 yards and 60 touchdowns over four seasons in Eugene before becoming a third-round draft choice of the Denver Broncos. Pretty high praise.
>> Frost made sure to make fun of the media, so… that’s a thing.
“Everybody makes mistakes,” he said when asked about the officials confusing the downs at one point Saturday. “We make mistakes as coaches. You guys write some really dumb things sometimes.”
That’s cool, Coach.
>> Maybe expect more trickeration from the Huskers moving forward. Frost dialed up some new stuff for Minnesota, including a Statue of Liberty call in the first quarter and then a fake Statue of Liberty later on.
“We threw a lot of stuff at those guys, we needed a win,” he said. But a lot of that stuff, Frost says, was met with excitement and crisp execution throughout the week of practice and most of it worked on gameday, something that typically lends itself to more later on.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.