Photo Credit: Nebraska Athletics

Special Teams Focused on Doing the Ordinary Extraordinarily

August 16, 2022

From day one after he took over as special teams coordinator, Bill Busch’s mantra for his room was simple: O.E.

It stands for “doing the ordinary extraordinary.” He used San Antonio Spurs legend Tim Duncan — known as “The Big Fundamental” — as the example for the group.

“We’re working so hard on being fundamentally correct in everything that we do,” Busch said. “So we take the ordinary and we do it with great energy and fire and I appreciate those guys for that. So it’s a big deal for us to do those things. For us to be able to be a great kickoff return, the 26, 28-yard line, that’s a great job. Nice punt for 41 yards, no return is a great job. Do the ordinary extraordinary and then the big plays will come as we go through those things.”

For a team that struggled to execute the simplest tasks in every phase of special teams last season, doing the basics at a high level is a great place to start, and having a devoted coordinator overseeing it all has made a difference. Transfer punter Brian Buschini called Busch’s energy “infectious.”

“Every morning we walk into that special teams room and he’s getting the guys going, yelling, getting super excited, just bringing the energy every day,” Buschini said. “I think that’s one thing about being a special teams coach that’s different than the other positions is you have to deal with more guys than any other coach on the team, and the more energy that you bring as a special teams coach, I think the guys can just feel his passion and how much he wants us to be good and I think that’s really bled down into the guys. We have just a fire under our tails this year just to go out there and perform. He’s going to put us in really good situations to perform at the highest that we can and I’m just excited to see what the team can do this year.”

Coach Scott Frost has said he’ll wait as long as possible before releasing a depth chart, but Busch said the staff has already identified who will start the season opener at the specialist positions, though he didn’t mention any names. Buschini (from Montana) and Furman transfer Timmy Bleekrode figure to be the guys at punter and place-kicker, respectively. 

“We know exactly who’s going to be the starters; the head coach handles all that,” Busch said. “They know exactly where they’re at right now and they’re very comfortable with it. We have a very specific way to judge everything. Everyone’s competing. They still compete, but they know right now who’s going to run out with the first kickoff, the first extra point, all those things.”

Bush said the specialists have been very consistent during fall camp, both in terms of performance and in level of effort. When they’ve missed on a kick or a punt, it hasn’t been by much.

“Not everyone’s perfect, we’re not going to go probably 44-for-44 on field goals, but if there’s a missed ball, it’s just like this,” Busch said. “So they’re very calm with what they’re doing, come back, figure out what it was, a slight miss-hit, go ahead, hit the next one and be able to go. The same way with punting right now, we’re punting at a very high rate. Everything’s not perfect, but we do have a great idea why it is.”

Busch ran through a list of special teams performers who have stood out to him to this point: nickel Chris Kolarevic (“stands out big-time”), running back Rahmir Johnson (stands out the most, “does everything”), the long snappers (Georgetown transfer Brady Weas and returners Cade Mueller and Cameron Pieper), cornerback Tommi Hill (on coverage units), nickel Isaac Gifford (“does a great job of getting things done every single day”), tight end Travis Vokolek (“outstanding” in his role) and linebacker Luke Reimer (a starter on special teams, doing an “outstanding job”).

“I like our energy, I like what we have, I like that we’ve got a great number of offensive guys helping us do things in coverage because It can’t be all defensive guys,” Busch added.

Tuesday’s practice provided the Huskers with a great opportunity to prepare for what they might experience over in Ireland thanks to some morning rain.

“Today was a great day for us with the weather, how it’s like being in Ireland,” Busch said. “And so we did a lot of things special teams-wise with the specialists, with the snappers, with the holders that involved wet ball drills, different things that are probably going to come up during the game. We had a chance to snap balls and be able to punt and do different things on the wet grass out there. So that was great for us to be able to get that done. So really excited about about the group of guys and what they’re getting done for us. Complete buy-in.”

Buschini is used to kicking in the adverse weather after growing up in Montana, but he said ti was awesome for the team to get to experience the rain in practice to prepare them for their week zero game and beyond.

“It’s raining over in Ireland pretty often and I’m just super excited that we got some elements today because it’s a good way to help us prepare for over there and even back here, when it gets to October, November football,” Buschini said. “We’re obviously going to have elements here and the more we can prepare in that now in a practice environment, the more ready we’ll be when it comes time for that in the fall.”

In addition to the wet ball drills, the Huskers have also practiced dealing with the sun, shadows on the field and every other type of environment they might encounter during the season. 

Aside from the weather preparation, the points of emphasis on Tuesday were what they call “daggers” (coffin-corner or pooch punting) and tackling drills for the offensive players who are working on coverage units. Busch again threw out the term “outstanding” to describe their effort.

“Everyone’s super excited for the season,” Buschini said. “We can feel that we have a really talented team this year and I think that as long as we go out there and do our one-eleventh, especially in the special teams room, that’s all you can ask for because that’s helping the team each and every Saturday to get the win and I’m just I’m super excited to be here and super blessed.”

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