The first week of spring practice is in the books. Nebraska held four of its 15 allowable practices last week, two of which were open to media. Those practices gave the coaching staff an opportunity to see where players fit and where they need to adjust. Coaches have an idea for what they want their respective sides of the ball to look like. And they wanted to be aggressive about it.
Offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield told Greg Sharpe on an episode of Sports Nightly before spring ball that he wanted to throw as much as he could at the offense right away. He and defensive coordinator Tony White hold similar philosophies in that way. Throw as much at the players initially and ease back later if necessary. Satterfield said they did some installation work the week before spring break and went immediately into practice on the other side. That posed a logistic challenge but the coordinator is satisfied with how the players responded.
“We did throw a lot at them so we accomplished that,” Satterfield said. “The ebbs and flows of practice are pretty consistent with what it usually is the last couple of years we’ve been doing this. A lot of guys are grinding at it.”
Then he outlined the larger challenge of adapting the playbook to the field.
“I would say they’re above average from a retention standpoint,” he said. “It’s one thing to retain it, it’s another thing to execute it consistently.”
In terms of systems or styles, Satterfield simply said they’ll adjust to fit personnel. Right now, they’re still trying to figure out where everyone fits best. When lining up for offensive drills, however, the arrival from South Carolina wants to make sure the offense runs clean and without turnovers. He wants a balanced, complimentary offense in the sense that different situations call for different plays. Whether a run or pass is necessary, Nebraska will have to execute that play “at a high level” in order to be successful. That’s what Satterfield is looking for at this point.
White also started installing his defense before players left for Spring Break. It’s a compound system that, collectively, gets complicated. But the spring is meant for absorbing and executing concepts of change.
“You want to throw as much at them as you can now and then taper back versus not having enough and then putting it in in the fall,” White told radio earlier this month.
The new defensive coordinator brought three analysts with him from Syracuse. Their familiarity helps him so all assistants and defensive coaches stay on the same page. Head coach Matt Rhule remarked last week that the coaching staff is good on verbiage, he’s just getting used to working with White. The defensive coordinator is one of two full-time coaches on staff (Donovan Raiola) that Rhule hasn’t worked directly with previously. White said it wasn’t necessarily an adjustment for him to work with Rhule. Working closely with him now, White’s learned why Rhule has been so successful and has a loyal following of coaches.
Some of those components came through in the first week of practice. The first two practices set the tone and established familiarity with drills and routines for players. On Thursday they strapped their pads on. That brought White’s vision for the defense another step closer. Cornerback Quinton Newsome said they’re playing free with an emphasis on turnovers. They want to be hawks flying to the ball. That’s what coaches wanted to instill right away.
“I think that’s the most important thing, establishing how we’re going to play,” White said. “Xs and Os, they’ll take care of themselves. Film study and getting things on the grass, all that stuff. But the mentality is the most important thing right now. That’s the thing we’ve got to work on.”
A new week brings a new opportunity to instill that mentality. Nebraska practices again this morning, Thursday morning and Saturday morning. Those are all open practices so expect plenty of coverage from Hail Varsity.