Ten days before the season-opener, practice slipped.
On Wednesday, Nebraska wasn’t up to snuff. Whether that was because it’s the second day of classes or something else, offensive coordinator Troy Walters was not interested in excuses when he met with the media after practice ended.
“It wasn’t our standard. We set the standard high and the guys came out and were going through the motions today, so we let them know that,” he said. “Guys just didn’t show up ready to go. That’s a learning experience. We’ll learn from it.
“We’ve got to be a team that every time we step on that field we’re at championship standards. We’ve got to play at championship standards and we didn’t do that today.”
Asked if it was the mental or physical lacking in the team’s approach, Walters said he doesn’t separate the two. They go hand-in-hand. If one isn’t on, it impacts the other. That was the case Wednesday.
“If you’re not mentally focused, mentally on top of your game, then you’re not going to practice well,” Walters said. “We kind of came out sluggish, so mentally we weren’t on it and it showed in our play. Too many mistakes, too many little details that we didn’t execute.”
Practice gets taken seriously under head coach Scott Frost and company. At Oregon, Chip Kelly operated under the philosophy that his team would be the best-practicing unit ever. Frost took that approach to Central Florida and he brought it with him to Nebraska. The stretch portion of practice is not a walk-through, it’s something to be attacked.
Given the schedule Nebraska faces this season, there’s even more of a desire to consistently bring it on the practice field.
“We’ve got to use this as a learning experience, go back and watch the tape and let those guys understand that with the schedule we play, if you come out flat on any given Saturday, it’s going to be a long Saturday,” Walters said.
Like when the wrong route gets run or a coverage gets busted, there wasn’t a ton of on-the-fly stopping, coaching and starting again. Walters said the issues that got the better of the team today will get addressed in the film room.
“You’ve got to work through it,” Walters said. “In a game, if things don’t go your way you’re not going to be able to stop the game. We let them work through it. Leaders gotta step up and hold guys accountable and call guys out.
“It really comes down to leaders holding each other accountable and everybody understanding that their job is important. If I don’t do my job, if I’m not ready, it affects everybody else. Especially on offense. If 10 guys are doing what they’re supposed to do and one guy doesn’t, the offense doesn’t work.”
Other News and Notes
>> Offensive lineman Jalin Barnett has officially left the Huskers, offensive line coach Greg Austin confirmed Wednesday.
>> There has been no concrete decision made on the quarterback race, but the team will hold a situational scrimmage on Thursday in the hopes of aiding that decision.
“We’ll have a situation scrimmage tomorrow and put them in situations and see which one handles it the best and which one gives us the best opportunity to win,” Walters said. “I think we have a good problem. We feel confident in both of those guys that when their number is called, they can go out there and execute the offense and win the game for us.”
In that scrimmage, Adrian Martinez and Tristan Gebbia will both continue to wear their green practice jerseys; neither will be live. Instead, Walters said they’ll be put into two-minute and four-minute drills as well as red zone and third-down situations.
Walters said the entire staff will sit down and discuss the competition; it won’t just be Frost or quarterback coach Mario Verduzco making the call. Verduzco, however, said it’s ultimately up to Frost if they decide to run with both quarterbacks.
If that’s the case, Verduzco laid out how he would handle split reps.
“You get them earlier in the game and all that sort of stuff when they're meaningful reps,” he said. “Obviously you're always concerned about whether or not a guy's got some rhythm going. All of those sorts of things that have nothing to do with the Xs and Os and are psychological in nature. Coach Frost is cognizant of that being a quarterback himself.
“That'll be something he'll have to decide and how he'll want to piece that together. I'm certain he would let me know and I would let them know to kind of anticipate what the plan might be. As of right now, there's no plan to play two quarterbacks."
>> Walters said freshman wideout Andre Hunt is a guy that “has an opportunity to play this year and be in the rotation.” An interesting remark given the depth at the wide receiver position. Walters said Hunt’s biggest strength is his route running.
“He knows how to run,” Walters said. “He’s a good route runner, that’s what really drew us to him. He knows the details of route running and how to get open and he has some speed, so he can create separation from the corner. Those things allow him to be successful.”
>> Running backs coach Ryan Held said Miles Jones and Wyatt Mazour are two of the primary guys filling the Duck-R spot in the Huskers' offense. He added they have weapons like Tyjon Lindsey and JD Spielman that can rotate in, but Jones and Mazour are the top guys right now. Greg Smith will have more on that later.
>> Walters said the running back position will officially go by-committee this season. If that’s news or not. Sophomore Tre Bryant continues to deal with an ankle sprain.
>> Wideout Jaevon McQuitty seems to be past any ill-effects of a knee injury that cost him his 2017 season. He said the only time he thinks about the knee is when the media asks him about it.
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.