Ryan Held during practice indoors
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Open Positions Becoming More Clear as Nebraska Preps for Illinois

August 24, 2021

Offensive coordinator Matt Lubick wants one guy at running back that can take the “bulk of the load” for Nebraska against Illinois. Do the Huskers know who that back might be? As it turns out, Nebraska appears to know who the No. 1 running back—at least for the first week for the season—but they’re not ready to say who that is.

And whoever that is on Saturday might not be the guy all season.

“We’re going to trot out the running back—whoever that is—and that guy may be the starter the rest of the year, half the year,” running backs coach Ryan Held said. “Who knows.”

Either way, Lubick expects the starting running back to take between 20 to 26 carries.

On the defensive side of the ball, the corner spot opposite of Cam Taylor-Britt is still not yet settled. Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander called it a tug of war for the spot, with the candidates narrowed down to Quinton Newsome and Braxton Clark. With the two “fighting it out” for the open spot, Chinander said defensive backs coach Travis Fisher would prefer to rotate corners at that spot if—and when—he’s able.

While some positions are still battling it out, it appears Nebraska does have a good idea of who falls where on its depth chart. Coach Scott Frost wasn’t ready to give away the details when he spoke on Monday, but it seems open positions on are becoming more clear as the Huskers’ Week 0 matchup with Illinois gets closer.

More news and notes:

>> When asked about the rotation up front, defensive line coach Tony Tuioti broke it down as such:

“All the guys are going to play,” he said. “I have about five, six guys that I feel really comfortable with and they’re doing a really good job in practice right now. We’re going to have to roll them, keep them fresh, and then as we get closer to the fourth quarter we’ll see who’s hot and those guys will play.”

>> Who has Nebraska watched film of to get itself ready to face Illinois? Appalachian State’s offense is one. Illinois offensive coordinator Tony Petersen came to Champaign from Appalachian State, but the Huskers have watched film from a number of his stops since 2010. That includes Missouri, East Carolina, Louisiana Tech and Marshall.

>> Lubick said it is hard to pick just one position group that he was most pleased with in their improvement during fall camp.

“That’s not easy to pick, it’s hard,” Lubick said. “I really do think we showed improvement at every spot including quarterback and he’s a four-year starter. I thought the running backs, we like our depth there. Our offensive line, even though we lost two pretty good players, we feel like we have better depth there. Tight ends have always been kind of a leadership position for us. We’ve got experienced guys there and they’ve lived up to that and improved their game. The receiver position is a lot better simply from the fact we had a lot of first-year players last year. The biggest improvement you make is from year one to year two. So, I really do feel like we’ve improved as an offense and hopefully we’ll see that on Saturday.”

>> What comes to mind when Lubick thinks about quarterback decision making?

“I think decision making is very important. How fast you can make those decisions and being able to react,” Lubick said. “Part of that as coaches is giving him a game plan that he feels comfortable with where he knows the reads, he can make a fast decision. Then just doing your job when you make those reads. Sometimes when we’ve got trouble in the past and not just the quarterback position but maybe trying to do something a little bit too much, which gets you in trouble. You need to trust your progressions. Trust the guys around you and do your job. Adrian has been doing that. Some of the turnovers last year we were trying to do too much and and it hurt us.”

>> Tuioti said llinois’ center Doug Kramer reminds him of Nebraska center Cameron Jurgens. Kramer is an experienced player too, having played in 37 games.

>> Is the matchup with Illinois a make or break game?

“To me, it’s make or break just because it’s the next game. That’s the most important game,” Chinander said. “The next one always is. It’s a very important game, obviously being a conference game. You put a lot of emphasis on it but I don’t think make or break. It can’t be the whole season riding on one game. It’s always the most important game because it’s the next one. Once we get done with this game, the next game will be the most important. It’s a very, very important game. A lot of stress has been put on this game throughout the preseason and those types of things but make or break I think is probably the wrong word.”

>> You can watch our quick recap from post-practice availability below:

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