Matt Rhule is a rebuild artist. He arrives at programs in need of rehabilitating or reviving. He accepted the job at Nebraska with the intention of doing both. Saturday’s layer of rebuilding involved him coaching on Tom Osborne Field for the first time, something he admitted afterward was “pretty cool.”
The Huskers held their seventh spring practice on Saturday morning, partially in Memorial Stadium and partially just to the north at Hawks Championship Center. They started with normal practice activities at Hawks—ball security, stretch, warm ups, special teams, individual drills, 1-on-1, 7-on-7 drills—for about 45 minutes before the scrimmage. According to Rhule, first and second units split around 85 snaps inside Memorial Stadium. Reps were distributed as equally as possible, he said. Oh, and everyone went live.
“We tackled quarterbacks today,” Rhule said. “Got a lot of good work in. And we came out of it pretty healthy too, which was important.”
Rhule thought the offense moved the ball well throughout the scrimmage. He credited a lot of that to the mobility of the quarterbacks. Rhule didn’t tell players it was a live scrimmage until Saturday morning, breaking them of the whistle-it-dead theme of quarterback pressure during practice. The head coach admitted that could have been a factor. Tony White’s aggressive-style defense got to the backfield but quarterbacks—Heinrich Haarberg, Jeff Sims, Chubba Purdy, Richard Torres—bounced off contact for long gains.
“That added a dynamic we hadn’t really exposed to the defense,” Rhule said.
Quarterbacks played well and showcased their different skillsets. Offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield tried different plays to fit those various skillsets. Two turnovers in the scrimmage stood out but coaches also put them in deep third-down, red zone and 2-minute situations.
Defensively, Rhule liked how the defense attacked the ball. He didn’t think White brought a lot of pressure with the intention of watching on-field reactions to plays. Rhule liked the pass coverage but acknowledged giving up big plays by quarterback scrambles.
“I think a lot of it for us right now is getting guys in the right spots,” Rhule said, before sharing his intention to build a deep rotation to keep the defense fresh.
To underline Rhule’s thankfulness on an injury-free scrimmage, offensive lineman Ben Scott got injured on Thursday. He got rolled up on and injured his knee during that morning practice. Coaches were initially fearful but Scott will likely only miss about a week practice. Rhule doesn’t have an urgency to rush him back from that either. The head coach complimented redshirt freshman offensive lineman Justin Evans-Jenkins for stepping into that spot without a noticeable drop-off. Rhule mentioned some players may be sore from Saturday’s scrimmage but none are expected to miss time.
Rhule broke briefly from the scrimmage recap to share his excitement for this weekend’s coaching clinic. He estimated 400 high school coaches from Nebraska, the Dakotas, Texas, New York and places in between, came to their clinic this weekend. Most of them attended Nebraska’s practice portion at Hawks on Saturday. Marquee speaker Dr. Tom Osborne highlighted the clinic with a PowerPoint presentation to the coaches in attendance. Rhule called that a humbling experience, not only that the Hall of Famer agreed to do it but how detailed and meticulous he made his presentation.
“It was gold. Absolute gold,” Rhule said. Osborne planned to attend Saturday’s scrimmage but Rhule wasn’t sure if he did.
Nebraska’s head coach said he wants Lincoln to be a place where coaches can come to learn. He wants to host more coaches clinics and keeps doors open at practice for high school coaches to learn.
Speaking of coaching, Rhule is excited about the return of former Nebraska head coach Frank Solich. They’re familiar with each other from when Solich coached at Ohio and Rhule was an assistant at Temple.