Tuesday morning, the Huskers had their best practice of the spring.
“Today was far and away our best day as a team,” head coach Scott Frost told gathered media afterward. “I saw great enthusiasm … I’m seeing guys start to get it, guys start to understand the schemes on both sides and what we’re looking for from a pace standpoint and an effort standpoint.”
One of the new Nebraska standards this staff has instilled is constantly changing the standard. They want to come in and be better than they were a day before, not simply content with yesterday’s results. So, he’s expecting an even better day on Thursday. But the head ball coach was quite complimentary of the progress his new team has made in just five days of practice.
“We’re stronger, we’re in better shape, after five practices they understand schemes on both sides better, they’re starting to understand some of the detail that makes it work and we’re seeing a lot of improvement on both sides of the ball,” he said. “I see guys having fun, I see guys helping out one another, I see communication improving.”
The Huskers held team competitions Tuesday, so they tracked every single rep. It came right down to the very last play. The offense maybe got some revenge on a defense that stuck it to them last week and won the day this time around. Frost said things ended on a converted first down.
The first 30 minutes of practice was open to the media. The tempo was as advertised and the physicality was unlike what media saw last season at this time. Guys were hitting each other and hitting each other hard. Frost said defensive back Marquel Dismuke is a guy “that you can tell we have to hold him back a little bit” from blowing someone up.
Yeah, that hard.
Frost says Travis Fisher, Nebraska’s defensive backs coach, has “a few guys … that like to hit.” Dismuke is one, junior college transfer Deontai Williams is another. Williams is a pretty good representation of the new crop of Huskers that joined mid-year and is reaping the benefits.
“They’re learning on the same track as everybody else and that kind of puts them on equal footing,” Frost said. “They’ve done a good job coming in and becoming a part of the team.”
They’re also in line for becoming part of the depth chart. Linebacker Breon Dixon, another newbie, took first-team reps at outside linebacker Tuesday — one of several guys that got looks in new spots. But Frost isn’t ready to talk ones and twos yet. He also said not to read too much into who’s where.
“We’re not really concerned about who’s running with which group right now,” he said. “It’s all about getting reps, getting the whole team better from the bottom of the roster to the top and sooner or later that will pay off for us. We’ve got a long time to decide who’s running with the ones and who’s running with the twos.”
Given the sheer volume of reps everyone is expected to receive on the roster, Frost said each player’s individual strengths and weaknesses will present themselves in time. For now, it’s just about getting the schemes in place, getting guys on the same page and getting the culture right.
Tuesday’s practice is an indication progress is right on track.
Other News and Notes
>> Nose tackle Mick Stoltenberg and running back Greg Bell both sat out practice Tuesday. Asked if either were dealing with any serious injuries, Frost said not to worry.
“Sometimes when you put yourself past what you’re used to pushing yourself your body can break down a little bit and that’s kind of what’s happening to us right now,” he said. “These guys are working harder than they have in the past. Shoot, if I went out and ran one 400 I’d probably lock up too.
“That’s good, that’s going to be natural to have a few little things but for the most part we’ve been healthy this spring, nothing major.”
>> Frost seems more than pleased with his quarterback room. Last week he shot down any talk of adding another quarterback, and Tuesday he said “I thought we had our best practice as a quarterback group today.”
“They’re all doing really good things,” he said. “Every one of those guys is making plays when they get their turns and we’re trying to split up the reps evenly right now.”
Between the three incumbents — Patrick O’Brien, Tristan Gebbia and Andrew Bunch — and the two newcomers — Adrian Martinez and Noah Vedral — there’s plenty work to be done in finding the next starter. Frost says he has “some guys that can really throw it and aren’t quite as good of runners and a guy or two that can really run.” You decide who’s who. For now, Frost wants to see a little tighter command of the offense.
“All of them need to learn to operate our offense a little better, at better pace and with a quicker understanding of what’s going on,” he said. “I saw improvement today.”
>> Hunter Miller took first-team reps at center again on Tuesday. Frost said the redshirt freshman is “doing a great job.”
>> Will Honas, a former junior college All-American linebacker, seems to be in good shape as he prepares for Big Ten play.
“We’re lucky to have Will Honas,” Frost said. “I love him as a kid and as a player. His biggest challenge, I think, is talking louder. He’s kind of a quiet guy. He’ll hit you but we’ve got to get him running the [defense] and speaking up and barking out the commands to everybody and being a floor general. Everything else is going to come really natural to him.”
Honas certainly has the mindset down.
“I just like the aggressive mentality,” he said of the new defensive scheme, “because I like to play downhill and make tackles.”
>> Bell, another get from the junior college ranks, is very upfront about his goals for his first offseason with Nebraska.
“I want to get the starting spot,” he said.
>> It was apparently junior college day for the media as the next man up was wide receiver Mike Williams. Frost was glowing of the wideout.
“Mike came in and went to work in the weight room. Today’s the first day — I think he’s indicative of some other guys — I really saw him start to cut it loose today. Instead of having the governor on and not really being sure of where you’re going and how you’re doing it, I saw him just go today and he looked like a different guy. We need more and more guys just starting to cut it loose. I’d rather have guys make mistakes full speed than be slow and do the right thing.”
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.