Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Position Shuffling, Return Candidates and Other Observations from Husker Practice

March 28, 2023

Coach Matt Rhule opened up Tuesday’s practice to the media for another 40-minute observation session as spring ball progresses through its second week at Nebraska.

Here are some notes and observations.

>> The green jersey group (no contact) remained mostly the same except for one notable difference from last Thursday: running back Anthony Grant was back in the full-go white jersey for the offense. Grant wore green during his return from suspension when the media viewed practice last week.

The quarterbacks, offensive tackle Teddy Prochazka, defensive back Javin Wright, tight end Jake Appleget, defensive lineman Brodie Tagaloa and defensive back Dwight Bootle II all remained in green jerseys.

>> In addition to the white for offense, red for defense, green for no-contact and gold for no participation (injured), there was a new jersey color at practice Tuesday: gray. Tight end AJ Rollin and defensive back Jalil Martin were the only two in that color.

Though he’s listed as a DB on the roster, Martin also participated in some receiver drills on Tuesday.

>> Rhule spoke with a small group of reporters on the sideline of practice. He mentioned that the offensive line isn’t wearing knee braces—unless they want to, of course—which ties into Rhule’s belief of letting players make the best decisions for themselves. There is some science to the decision too, with Rhule pointing to his time in the NFL for the reasoning not to require braces unless needed.

>> While the quarterbacks were warming up, centers joined them to work on shotgun snaps. Arizona State transfer Ben Scott snapped to Jeff Sims, walk-on Keegan Henning snapped to Heinrich Haarberg and redshirt freshman Justin Evans-Jenkins snapped to Chubba Purdy.

Walk-on quarterback (and baseball player) Mikey Pauley snapped to Casey Thompson with both wearing gold jerseys. Analysts snapped to redshirt freshman Richard Torres and walk-on transfer Jack Woche.

>> During a kick return drill, returners included Grant, Tommi Hill, Joshua Fleeks, Billy Kemp IV, Rahmir Johnson, Emmett Johnson, Gabe Ervin Jr., Shawn Hardy II and Elliott Brown.  The drill partially focused on the return team timing their blocks correctly.

During pun return drills, the returners included Grant, Kemp, Brown, Emmett Johnson, Zavier Betts and Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda.

>> Last Thursday, defensive coordinator Tony White mentioned sophomore Malcolm Hartzog as a standout among players who had changed positions. White said Hartzog had played basically every position in the secondary. On Thursday, he was working with the safety group during position drills.

Hartzog started eight games at cornerback last season and led the team with three interceptions.

>> One competitive drill featured both offensive and defensive players participating on both sides of the line of scrimmage. The player on defense attempted the jam the player on offense and prevent him from getting through a pair of cones down the field.

Two players in particular really went at it with plenty of talking back and forth, to the point where the coach had to tell them to shut up so everyone else could continue with the drill. The trash talk began even before the drill did as the defensive player called out the offensive player he wanted to line up against. They did one rep against each other, but the whistle sounded before they could go again.

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