Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Nebraska Returning Cornerback Quinton Newsome Learning New Defense as a Leader

March 27, 2023

Nebraska secondary coach Evan Cooper complimented the room when he first met local media this winter. Some of his new players gave him the same impression as the NFL starters he just finished coaching in Carolina.

One of them was Quinton Newsome. The standout corner played four years for the previous coaching staff, culminating in his current 24-game streak of consecutive starts. Former secondary coach Travis Fisher directly oversaw Newsome all four of those years. Then came the coaching change, which sent Fisher to coach cornerbacks at Syracuse. Newsome admitted the coaching move brought the typical difficulties of change but he’s become a fan of this new staff.

“It’s tough, always, getting a new coaching staff,” he said on Thursday. “I think it’s harder being an older guy because you’re used to the old coaching staff and how things used to go but me and Coach Rhule have grown closer over the winter training and I think everybody’s on board.”

Newsome wanted to get stronger before his upcoming senior season. He already feels stronger after just a few months with strength and conditioning coach Corey Campbell and his staff. He also wanted to get faster, something he continues to work with Campbell’s staff on. Campbell and his staff made the Georgia native comfortable being uncomfortable during workouts. They built physical and mental strength, something the cornerback complimented them for on Thursday.

Newsome also wanted to work on his off-man defending. Cooper’s helped him there while also stressing press coverage technique. Defensive coordinator Tony White’s defense is philosophically aggressive. Cooper wants the cornerbacks to be aggressive and on their men and attack the ball.

Nebraska’s veteran corner wants to “dominate the Big Ten and be one of the best corners in college football this year.” He trusts Cooper, who just coached in the NFL, can get him there.

“It’s a lot of different things and you’ve got to take the coaching,” Newsome said. “I’m excited to learn new things and add onto stuff that I know. And just accept everything that the coaches are trying to tell me.”

Cooper points to Carolina Panthers corner Jaycee Horn in film study. Newsome’s picked up a few of his traits during intensive film study. This detail-oriented coaching staff is trying to instill the same attention to detail onto players. That comes to fruition during drills and practice, as well as during film study the following day.

Nebraska strapped on pads Thursday, which added another layer of detail. Coaches focus on details in padded practices until it’s second nature even in the face of contact. The Huskers held one practice since then, a closed session on Saturday, to instill more aspects of the defense. There’s an emphasis on takeaways, another byproduct of White’s defensive philosophy. Newsome smiled when he explained its importance, whether it’s an interception or punching at the ball. He’s also had to adjust to a rover, sometimes playing as a third safety, in the defense. That doesn’t really impact how he plays but it adds another wrinkle to defense.

“Having three safeties is just different,” he said. “Different ways you can tweak the defense. You can do this, you can do that. It’s exciting.”

Coaches tried to divide reps evenly between players at all positions in the first week of spring practice. They consider all players on equal footing at this point. Newsome’s witnessed multiple players take advantage of that, including Omar Brown. He’s also watched Malcolm Hartzog prove once again with a new coaching staff what he proved in the last half of last season. Even with equal reps, Newsome embraced a role of veteran leadership to younger corners and transfer arrivals.

“I feel like everybody is taking advantage of the reps they’re getting right now because they know that we’ve got a new coaching staff and they know it doesn’t matter what you did last year, doesn’t matter what you did before,” Newsome said. “So it’s a whole new page.”

Along with rep distribution, the coaching staff made a choice to alter number distribution. No player on Nebraska’s roster has a single-digit number right now. That’s a byproduct of head coach Matt Rhule’s history at Temple. Those single-digit numbers are reserved for those who earn them. Only the team’s toughest players get them. From mat drills through spring ball.

Newsome’s not exactly sure what goes into the staff’s decision to allocate single digits. Whoever deserves it, he said. So he’s going to make sure he’s deserving.

“I want my No. 6 back for sure,” he said.

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