Nebraska returned to the practice field on Thursday and was in full pads for the first time since spring break, which offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf was happy about. Being in full pads (versus shorts), Langsdorf believes the Husker coaches are able to fully evaluate the players at key positions.
“It’s a mandated deal, those shorts,” Langsdorf said. “It’s probably good that they want to take care of the kids, but it’s hard to simulate real football at a lot of positions. You kind of have to live with it, but you can get a lot of fundamental work done on those days, lot of technique stuff, and then the evaluations have to come with pads on.”
One of the areas of evaluation will be the offensive line, where Langsdorf is interested to see both sophomore Michael Decker and redshirt freshman John Raridon at center. The shotgun snaps from both players have been “erratic” at times this spring, so Langsdorf and offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh will look at both extensively over the next couple of weeks.
Decker said he has been leaning heavily on the older players on the offensive line to learn and grow at the center position.
“They really help me if it’s an in-game package I’m not used to seeing,” Decker said. “They’re experienced enough to tell me about it, which is a luxury that I have not necessarily had in the past. I really appreciate their experience.”
Junior Nick Gates’ advice? Relax and move on from mistakes.
“If you mess up, screw up, you just have to forget about it,” Gates said. “I still screw up in games so you kind of have to forget about it and go on to the next play.”
Nebraska is expected to scrimmage on Saturday, so the opportunity to make those mistakes and learn from them will happen. If there’s one thing both Langsdorf and the players agree on, they’re ready for it.
On to more news and notes from Thursday’s practice:
>> Langsdorf likes what he’s seen from the quarterbacks when it comes to checking the ball down. As a result, he said that completion percentages are up.
“Checking the ball down has been really good,” Langsdorf said. “You saw a third down period today where they’ve got a lot of people in coverage and it’s a 3-man rush and the ball is getting out of their hands into a back and we’re running for a first down, or at least getting a completion to even have a chance to do it rather than throwing it into coverage or throwing interceptions. I think they’re doing a nice job of utilizing those check downs and with that the completion percentage is higher and the backs catch more balls.”
>> Senior David Knevel is feeling much healthier now after suffering a left ankle injury during the 2016 season. He said that experience taught him a lot and he’s better for it as a result.
“I learned a lot from it, mental toughness and so forth,” Knevel said. “I got into a low spot so I kind of learned how to cope with that.”
>> I-back Devine Ozigbo is still banged up but Langsdorf did not offer specifics. Ozigbo is not taking many repetitions in practice as a result and also wasn’t able to finish some practices this spring.
>> When it comes to the tight ends, there have been ups and downs so far this spring but Langsdorf acknowledges that lack of experience is playing a part in that. Otherwise, he’s been happy with what he’s seen from Matt Snyder and Jack Stoll.
As for Tyler Hoppes, he was sick on Thursday.
>> Langsdorf liked what he saw from wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson Jr. on Thursday, who went through his first padded practice. After recovering from the side effects of appendicitis, it was impressive for Langsdorf to see him catch on so quickly.
“He’s finally getting into it, which is good for him and good for us to see,” Langsdorf said.
>> If there’s one thing Langsdorf wants from the offense before the spring game, it’s consistency. That will be a big area of focus over the next couple of weeks.
“I think just a big jump in consistency,” Langsdorf said. “The ups and downs, whether it’s play to play or period to period, whatever we’re working on, we just have to have better consistency. I think the work is really good. I think the energy level is great. We’ve got a lot of good kids that understand, in year three now, what we’re trying to do and have a little bit better understanding of that. I love that part of it. The quarterbacks are really battling. We want somebody to get to separate there, and that’ll come with some more live work. I like where we’re at with this group. I think it is bunch of good kids that like playing and that shows with the energy at practice.”
Erin is the Deputy Editor and Digital Marketing Strategist for Hail Varsity. She has covered Nebraska athletics since 2012, which has included stops at Bleacher Report, Cox Media Group’s Land of 10, and even Hail Varsity (previously from 2012-2017). She has also been featured on the Big Ten Network, NET’s Big Red Wrap-Up, and a varsity of radio shows nationwide. When not covering the Huskers, Erin is probably at Chipotle.