Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Nebraska ‘Definitely Further Along’ Than Matt Rhule Expected After Second Scrimmage

April 15, 2023

Players asked Nebraska head coach Matt Rhule during the Huskers’ Saturday scrimmage if they would move inside. Not unless there’s lightning, Rhule responded. Then he told them to imagine the season instead of a gloomy 40-degree April morning. The offense to imagine playing at Michigan State late in the year. He told the defense to imagine hosting rival Iowa the day after Thanksgiving. That brought a high level of energy to Tom Osborne Field for a two-hour closed door scrimmage.

Rhule walked into a multi-purpose room on the first floor on the west end of Memorial Stadium at roughly 11:28 a.m. with the chill clinging to his jacket and shorts. He didn’t need a minute but he could have used a cup of coffee. The head coach then answered questions about his team with a week left until the Spring Game.

“I think we’re further ahead than I thought we would be,” Rhule recapped. “We’re definitely further along.”

Nebraska’s head coach said the defense won the scrimmage and was “significantly improved” overall. Defense took a step forward in terms of speed, limiting the opposing run offense from its output the previous scrimmage. The offense created some explosive plays, but not enough. A zone read run by quarterback Jeff Sims and a long touchdown catch by Marcus Washington stood out among their play. Overall, he wants the Huskers to “accelerate” their situational awareness and take better care of the ball.

“As you install some things, put new plays in, guys start to focus on the plays and not the details or fundamentals, which is kind of my job,” Rhule said. “I was really happy with their demeanor and the way they attacked it, but just didn’t love that the offense put the ball on the ground too many times. Happy that the defense knocked the ball out, though. Special teams got some work done. Still have a lot of work to do special teams-wise to get to where want to be.”

Rhule mentioned the coaching staff’s focus on correcting details, like missteps on film. He was “disappointed” by the offense to fumble so much because that’s controllable. Rhule pointed out not many programs play with live quarterbacks in spring, as Nebraska has in both scrimmages now. At least that improvement is being addressed now, he said.

Rhule likes where the special teams unit is at now but said there’s “a long way to go” to meet potential. He expects a good special teams unit and believes it can help impact games. Rhule directly mentioned honing field goals to be more consistent and blocking kicks.

“We’re not getting our hands on enough right now,” Rhule said. “But the overall system and fundamentals, I’m pleased with, it’s just consistency, might take a while to get everyone on the same page.”

Health-wise, a few Huskers are “banged up” but with nothing that seems to be anything long-term, Rhule said. Elijah Jeudy and John Bullock rolled their ankles, which will be evaluated further as a precaution. Ajay Allen and Ben Scott were both held out of Saturday’s scrimmage. Rhule said would have probably been made available in a game week.

Rhule plans to couple first-team offense with second-team defense against the first-team defense and second-team offense in next week’s Spring Game. That way they can continue pitting 1s-vs-1s. As of Friday morning, roughly 57,000 tickets were sold for Rhule’s first Red-White Game.

“I talked about the Spring Game today with the guys and I want to make sure they understand this is not a show,” Rhule said. “I watched some other spring games on TV where it’s kind of like a show and whatever. This is not a show. I expect them to get better all the way until however long the Spring Game is.”

Rhule stressed consistency and being the same team in practice as in games. Because the staff teaches constant improvement, he challenged the coaching staff and players alike to bring their best week of practice going forward.

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