Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Huskers Step up to Matt Rhule’s Challenge as Nebraska Starts Second Week of Spring Practice

March 28, 2023

Some practices are better than others. Historically, Matt Rhule said, the second Tuesday practice of spring ball is a tough one. There isn’t the energy that accompanies the first week and the team isn’t quite at the midway point in a high-volume spring. Nebraska’s head coach challenged the Huskers to surpass that history.

“They did a pretty good job,” Rhule said. “I challenged them right there, challenged the coaches. I think players are going to use the fact that I challenged the coaches, I’ll challenge myself.

“The newness has worn off. So now it’s about can we grind out the details?”

The head coach spoke for roughly 20 minutes to local media after Tuesday’s practice, part of which was open to media. That allowed Hail Varsity to send updates from its various Twitter presences and provide another photo gallery. Nebraska opens the doors for parts of two more practices to media later this spring.

Aggression remained a central theme through drill work. From points of contact and blocking drills to the fundamentals of picking a fumble rolling off the turf. Those drills opened up more by circuits than personnel. Rhule said his coaching staff isn’t evaluating anything other than traits at this point. Players are less confined to their respective positions and participate at various drill stations. AJ Rollins and Janiran Bonner both wore grey jerseys on Tuesday, those were new additions this spring. Rhule explained those grey jerseys signify players participating on offense and defense. Bonner is now taking tight end reps after starting on defense while Rollins is getting reps on the defensive line. Rhule spoke highly of the Creighton Prep graduate’s future there, provided he sticks with it.

Rhule said running back Rahmir Johnson is in the midst of a good camp. Johnson also stepped in front of cameras on Tuesday to answer questions. Quarterback Jeff Sims also fielded questions and gained compliments from the head coach on Tuesday. Rhule likes the “dynamic element” Sims brings as a runner and passer.

Running back Anthony Grant is participating fully in practice. He was withheld from practicing at the start of spring camp.

“If something that’s happened academically or socially or anything like that, I say you can’t practice, doesn’t mean I don’t love you,” Rhule said. “I think that’s one of the big things we want the guys to understand. We’re gonna correct actions but we love the guys.”

That gave Rhule another opportunity to boast about the program’s running back room. Grant, Johnson, plus Ajay Allen, Gabe Ervin Jr. and Emmett Johnson all excite the coaching staff for different reasons. Coaches like all of them for their different skillsets.

Rhule said Nebraska will utilize one of its scrimmages on Saturday, which is not open to media but Rhule will answer questions afterwards. The head coach still isn’t sure how intensive of a scrimmage that will be. At this point, there are only a dozen healthy offensive linemen. Rhule is used to that but it is lower than Nebraska’s usual roster size. Those numbers could influence the scrimmage’s setup, although Rhule spoke highly of newcomers at that position, including Lincoln Southeast early enrollee Gunner Gottula.

“I think we have three or four great walk-on offensive linemen that are just great,” Rhule said. “Dylan Parrott is a guy who could play. Keegan (Manning) is a guy that could help us. Ezra Miller has been banged up but he could help us and my guy from Jersey, (Joey) Mancino is a great dude who could play.”

Rhule reiterated the purpose of spring practice is to give the coaching staff an idea of where players fit and trying new things. Offensive and defensive setup, as well as player positions, remain fluid at this point. What the coaching staff wants to install now is the expectation of effort and attention to detail.

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