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Photo Credit: John Peterson

Nebraska Defensive Front Bought Into Coaches’ Idea of Consistent 1% Improvement

August 02, 2023

There are a lot of phrases and quotes floating around college football. Chalk it up to the hashtag-ification of society. The Nebraska football team certainly fits that mold. It’s either day by day, Husker speed, dominant contact, elite, most competitive and hardest working team. Then there’s the buzz phrase throughout Tuesday’s post-practice verbiage. Get 1% better.

Linebacker MJ Sherman said the coaches introduced the phrase but the players own it. One of the defense’s budding leaders at the end of spring ball, Sherman broke down what it means to be a single percent better every day.

“Not making the same mistake every day,” “If I go inside a tackle when I wasn’t supposed to on that play, the next time it comes to me I do my correct assignment. It’s simple things like that. If I loafed on one play, the next time I don’t loaf.

“It’s what you do to get 1% better every day. What you do to not make today look like yesterday. How you can be better than yesterday. That’s all.”

Sherman didn’t think he had much to say following the Huskers’ second practice of preseason camp. He is focused on improvement and, by Tuesday afternoon, they only had a small sample size to analyze. He’s worked at Jack linebacker in practice so far so he can rush the passer more often. The Georgia transfer also said his feet are in the ground now at Nebraska. New-environment excitement is gone and replaced by excitement of a new season.

Defensive lineman Nash Hutmacher believes he’s tried getting 1% better, basically, the last few years. He mentioned how breakout moments in fall camp or during the season usher younger players into a new era of their careers. One day it clicks. Personally, he experienced that during a recent fall camp a few years ago.

“I just had that realization I could be a big contributor for this defense and I tried to get better every day,” Hutmacher said. “That’s what I’ve been doing.”

He grew into a leadership role during the spring season and wants to expand upon that this fall. Coaches speak highly of his development as he enters the new phase of his career. Hutmacher could see major snaps this fall, especially with the Huskers’ plans to rotate heavily on defense. He hopes to not only answer that call but help lead the younger Huskers up to that level with him.

Hutmacher, Ty Robinson and Ru’Quan Buckley have already all spoken highly of working with defensive line coach Terrance Knighton and the united goal of team improvement. Buckley said all three of them, and he threw in Blaise Gunnerson, act as the veteran core of the defensive line. Together, they help develop and cast a mold for the younger Huskers in the trenches. Buckley said the team’s grinding mentality changed during the spring. There wasn’t the same amount of expectations on players like there are now.

Gunnerson explained how the team went through a learning process in the spring. Now they’re trying to improve while ensuring the younger players get reps to build for the future. That way the team continually improves, if only by a single percent. He also believes in the 1% mentality but in a more fundamental way than maybe some of his teammates.

“Being better than you were yesterday,” Gunnerson said. “You don’t have to overcomplicate it. That’s what it is. You’ve got to look at yourself in the mirror and be ready to go every day.”

Nebraska holds its third practice of preseason camp on Wednesday, which is closed to media. More direct post-practice coverage from Hail Varsity will follow Thursday morning’s session.

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