Be deliberate and know the purpose. The Nebraska coaching staff wants their players to be the aggressor. Be physical and attack with the goal in mind. That comes through in their offensive and defensive philosophies. It’s also evident when they break up into different drills and move to other stations at practice.
Matt Rhule and the collective Nebraska football program peeled the curtain back to media for the first time during practice on Thursday. That provided a glimpse inside the dirty day-to-day work of a new era. Although it was just the third of 15 allowable practices and they’re still shuffling personnel, offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield and defensive coordinator Tony White share the same philosophies of attacking and purpose.
“We want to know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” White said after Thursday’s practice. “That’s in everything. When you’re herding that big of a group all the time, guys go through the drill and they just do it. We’re really big on doing things deliberate. They know why they’re doing it, how it applies to them on the grass, how it’s going to benefit on the grass.
“The more they hear that verbiage, the more they see it on tape, you turn it from thinking about it to instinct.”
Defensive players, regardless of position, worked at behind the edge to get to the quarterback and knock the ball loose. Secondary coach Evan Cooper stressed “dominant contact” in drills and urged them to get physical. Be the aggressor against each other. Linebackers and edge rushers attacked in the same way.
Satterfield shared a similar belief. He complimented the offensive line’s work under coach Donovan Raiola for being physical and moving like a group. Transfer arrival Ben Scott looks like he’s already played three seasons at Nebraska, Satterfield said. Wide receivers coach Garret McGuire stresses ball security during drills, as was evident during the open period in practice. Running backs coach E.J. Barthel accepted nothing other than sprints into contact and ball security in drills. Satterfield looked over the quarterback group outside because the coaches want to see them throw in the elements. He wanted to see them throw with purpose and assurity.
“I tell our guys, I’ll put my dog out there to play quarterback if he takes care of the ball and helps us win games,” Satterfield said. “We don’t care what shape, size it looks like, we just want to take care of the football and be a winner.”
(For those curious, Satterfield and his family have three dogs. Winnie, Annabella and the aptly named Coach Satterfield. Shortly after hearing their dogs mentioned, Sarah Satterfield tweeted a look at all three as a National Puppy Day present to us all.)
— Sarah H Satterfield (@Sara_Football) March 23, 2023
Back on the field and with potential ball carriers who use their hands instead of teeth, Satterfield is excited by Nebraska’s size. He hasn’t coached in the Big Ten but likened his ideal offensive scheme to fit the conference’s reputation.
“I’ve never had this many big human beings before,” Satterfield said. “Especially this many tight ends or fullback types. We’re going to strive to be how we came into this world, physical and tough. Run the football, take care of the football and keep the defense off the field.”
That’s their goal. Although who lines up where and how is still a mystery. They don’t know who emerges ready to play on Saturdays and how the offense and defense fits their personnel best. Satterfield likes the physicality and versatility of the tight ends and running backs because they can be diverse. Arik Gilbert arrived at camp around 280 pounds, Satterfield said, but hasn’t lost a step. He’s a gifted tight end who can show his unique abilities if the coaching staff supports him, Satterfield attested. The Georgia transfer, much like this team itself, has a lot of promise for what it can do all over the field. What that looks like, exactly, is still unknown.
“It’s not just ground-and-pound because with every ground-and-pound is a play action shot for 70 yards,” Satterfield said. “I think that’s how we’re built and we’re going to strive and go that direction. But whatever personnel we have is what’s going to show up on film this Saturday.”