Nebraska head coach Matt Rhule gave the Huskers last Saturday off practice to celebrate Easter with family and loved ones. He also challenged them to return to practice on Tuesday with vigor and improvement. While the head coach wanted to check the practice before fully answering if players met that challenge, he was complimentary of their playbook retention and execution of new ideas.
“I learned over the years not to judge a practice based on the way I feel after practice, good or bad” Rhule said. “I like to watch the tape. We’re getting to the point now that so many dudes are going to be right that when they have a bad play, there might just be one or two.
“I’m anxious to see this tape though, this was big for us. We’re kind of one of those teams that builds up over the course of the week and have really good Saturdays. I want us to be a little faster starting.”
Rhule said he held a team meeting before Tuesday’s practice to drive home that fast start. He chuckled after practice that he only has himself to blame if it didn’t work.
Nebraska’s head coach feels the team’s tackling is improving. He thinks the team is thudding better, like they thudded throughout Tuesday’s practice. Rhule explained his staff teaches tackling by always tracking hips and not running over the top. That’s a departure from how players were previously coached at Nebraska and Rhule said some still struggle with their pursuit angles. “We’re willing to tackle, I can say that,” Rhule said. “We’re not a soft team.” He then said he’ll have a better idea after Saturday when the Huskers scrimmage again and “run a ton of plays.”
Speaking of scrimmages, Rhule hasn’t confirmed a structure for Nebraska’s Red-White Game. He wants it to be competitive and as close to an actual game as possible, that includes live quarterbacks. Healthy numbers are the biggest indicator for Rhule and his staff before they settle on a Spring Game format.
Rhule complimented wide receiver coach Garret McGuire and his leadership of the receiver group. McGuire essentially runs the passing game during the Huskers’ 7-on-7 portion in the last half of practices. McGuire wasn’t afraid to directly coach, and get after when necessary, multi-million receivers in the NFL. He met with local media after Tuesday’s practice and is having “the time of my life” coaching receivers. Players spend time in McGuire’s office, which he considers their office as well, breaking down film with him.
“I’m a firm believer in breaking down NFL tape,” McGuire said on Tuesday. “I think if the see the best of the best do it, they learn better than going to see a guy that is on the same playing level.”
Players like to analyze JaMarr Chase, Justin Jefferson and Tyreke Hill. McGuire likes to show film of D.J. Moore, who he coached at Carolina before the Panthers traded him to Chicago in favor of the No. 1 overall pick.
On the field, McGuire wants to teach “Husker speed” among the group. When asked, he described that as “overwhelming effort, player after play.”
McGuire and Rhule both mentioned maximizing reps. Rhule wants to get four healthy quarterbacks—Jeff Sims, Chubba Purdy, Heinrich Haarberg and Richard Torres—as many reps as possible. The head coach said they’re following the blueprint Coach Tom Osborne laid out in order to get reps.