Zavier Betts and Alante Brown are a couple receivers who fans have been pining to see more of, but they need to be healthy to play said Nebraska offensive coordinator Matt Lubick during an appearance on Sports Nightly Thursday .
“Part of their issues have been health, and they’re starting to get healthy,” Lubick said. “They’re definitely both progressing and it was good to see Zavier carry the ball in the last game and Alante with the catch and making guys miss in the game before. I expect us and the fanbase to see more and more of those guys make plays.”
Nebraska’s receivers have shown improvement and more detail in their route running from last year. A lot of young players were on the field in 2020, and even the older ones who played had just transferred in.
“Just learning the offense, the repetition of running the same route over and over again and the details,” Lubick said. “One thing about pass routes is, you can draw them up on paper, but they change based on the look. You might have a defender inside, might have one outside, and how do you change your route based on that? Talking about it is one thing, but actually doing it is when guys get better.”
Samori Touré is one of the receivers who has impressed Lubick with his route running. The transfer from Montana leads the Big Ten and is second in the nation in receiving yards with 306. Touré has been a bright spot on the offense, and Lubick said he came to Lincoln already polished.
“His strength is his route running. He gets great separation, knows how to set up a defender, has a great feel for leverage,” Lubick said of Touré. “Those are all things we try to teach and drill. I wish I could take credit for that stuff, but I can’t. He was well-coached and he’s developed really well since he’s got here.”
The true freshman receivers—Latrell Neville, Kamonte Grimes and Shawn Hardy II—have been doing well to start their careers, but need time to develop, which is something made possible because of the solid depth at receiver, which wasn’t the case last season, Lubick said. Due to COVID-19, their first day in Lincoln was the first day before fall camp started, so they have a lot of catching up to do.
“The good thing is we have a lot of depth, and we like the guys and experience that we’ve got. So we don’t want to waste a year on somebody just to play a few snaps a game,” Lubick said. “It’s a different situation from last year where we had to play some guys who probably weren’t ready, but we just didn’t have enough guys. So now that we have more depth and experience, it’s letting those younger guys develop.”
More news and notes:
>> Though he’s been battling an injury that’s kept him off the field in all three games this season, tight end Travis Vokolek will be able to help the Husker offense when he’s healthy, which will be soon, Lubick said.
>> Lubick added that he self scouts himself every Monday, looking at the formations the Huskers run the ball out of to make sure they’re not giving away any tendencies.
>> Lubick said there hasn’t been a running back who has separated himself yet. USC transfer Markese Stepp enjoyed a 100-yard outing against Fordham, but freshman Gabe Ervin Jr. had a strong game against Buffalo. “As a coach, you can’t have enough running backs because that position takes the most punishment out of any position on the football team. I’m happy how they’re progressing.”
>> What’s Lubick’s pitch to recruits who see young players like Ervin at running back and other freshman like Turner Corcoran and Bryce Benhart along the offensive line? He tells them that the coaching staff will always give someone the opportunity to compete to play. “We never promise them a starting position, but we can promise them an opportunity to start,” he said. “You’ll get reps with the ones and twos, and we’re going to have a plan to get you caught up to speed. But at the end of the day it’s up to you.”
>> After beating themselves at Illinois, Lubick said he’s seen steps in the right direction to make sure that doesn’t happen again. “We still have too many penalties, but they’ve been cut drastically,” Lubick said. “The execution in general has been better, it’s not where it needs to be, and we can always be better and that’s always going to be the case whether we win or lose, but it’s getting better.”