It’s March 27 with five months still before the start of a new football season. It’s the third week of spring football. So caveats once again apply here. When Nebraska opens up the doors to the Hawks Championship Center and lets the media observe the opening portion of a practice, like it did for the second time this spring, everything is scripted. We see what the Huskers want us to see.
So, with all that being said, here are some observations from the first 30 minutes of Nebraska’s practice Wednesday morning.
>> Running back Maurice Washington is back. He practiced Wednesday (and has been practicing) and worked with the presumed starters.
>> Safety CJ Smith remains out while he rehabs a knee injury suffered last season. Same goes for freshman tight end Chris Hickman, who's nursing a shoulder. Collin Shefke and Hunter Miller, two offensive linemen, were also sidelined. It's unclear at the moment what they're dealing with.
Wideout Kade Warner and freshman runner/wideout Wan'Dale Robinson were both back on the field. Neither were in pads the last time we watched practice.
>> Offensive run-throughs felt slower than they did the last time we watched things. The time in between plays was a little longer and coaches seemed slightly frustrated by that. Whether it was a delay in getting calls in or a delay in the quarterbacks setting things up, it was a step behind what we saw during the first open portion.
>> 4-star wideout Muhsin Muhammad III received a lot of attention from the staff including a good amount of one on one instruction from Troy Walters. During one drill, Walters demonstrated some technique. Greg Smith will have a full update coming later on his visit.
>> Tyrone Carter Elite Training Schools from Minnesota brought a large group of its players to practice. The group was founded by 11-year NFL veteran and Jim Thorpe Award winner Tyrone Carter. Among the group was 4-star linebacker Kaden Johnson from Minnehaha Academy. Greg will have more on this later as well.
>> Tight ends coach Sean Beckton wanted to know where the country music was. Heavy rap rotation during Wednesday's practice.
>> Whereas last time the Huskers ran
a modified Oklahoma drill The Nebraska Drill as their contact drill during the open period, this time the media saw a goal line scenario. The offense set up from the 1-yard-line and simulated fourth down. A score meant a point for the offense, a stop meant a point for the defense. First to five wins.
The defense started with a 3-1 lead thanks in part to a stuff of Washington at the goal line by senior outside backer Alex Davis. The offense scored four of the final five points to win the drill, punctuated by a downright mean fake handoff and bootleg from Adrian Martinez for the winning score.
Junior linebacker Pernell Jefferson made a few plays during, getting into the backfield untouched for a tackle for loss and a sack. Senior running back Wyatt Mazour scored on both his carries.
>> During offensive run-throughs, Nebraska stuck with one offensive line for multiple quarterbacks and skill player packages. That unit is presumed to be the starting five at this point — Brenden Jaimes, Trent Hixson, Cam Jurgens, Boe Wilson and Matt Farniok (from left to right).
Redshirt freshman wideout Andre Hunt joined that first group along with junior JD Spielman and senior Jaron Woodyard. Hunt and Woodyard were the first names brought up by offensive coordinator Troy Walters earlier in the week when talking about which wideouts have taken a step forward. Jacob Padilla wrote about Woodyard here.
Robinson worked with the second unit but was used everywhere. He caught a post route from the slot, took a handoff and ran off-tackle, ran a drag pattern from the outside and blocked. He and Mazour shared the field during run-throughs, with Mazour in the backfield when Robinson was flexed out.
>> The first team defense looked to be this: Carlos Davis, Darrion Daniels and Ben Stille on the line; JoJo Domann, Mohamed Barry, Collin Miller and Tyrin Ferguson at linebacker; Lamar Jackson, Deontai Williams (who was wearing the No. 8 jersey in practice), Marquel Dismuke and Dicaprio Bootle in the secondary. That can and probably will change at some point between now and August, but that was the first unit on the field Wednesday.
>> Walk-on Omaha running back Brody Belt has drawn praise from both Walters and his position coach, Ryan Held, throughout the start of spring ball. Keep an eye on him going forward, but it might be important to not get too carried away. Washington, Mazour, Jaylin Bradley and Miles Jones all got snaps at running back before Belt during run-throughs.
>> Freshman quarterback Luke McCaffrey ran a speed option and a QB wrap on his first two snaps. That's personally very exciting. Nebraska ran several option plays during the goal line drill as well.
Jacob Padilla, Greg Smith and Erin Sorensen contributed to this report
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.