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Photo Credit: John Peterson

Tony White Discusses Defensive Growth, Staff Dynamics

August 11, 2023

Nebraska football’s new-look defense continues to be worked on a few weeks out from the season opener.

Through the first couple weeks of fall camp, players have enjoyed the freedom and versatility that comes with defensive coordinator Tony White’s scheme. For the assistant coach, he’s continuing to focus on putting players in a position to succeed and seeing where the defense is lacking.

“Yesterday, we got a chance to self-scout and then you’re going back through and saying, what do we do wrong? What do we need to work on? So then now in practice, you’re making an emphasis to just call that regardless of situation,” White said at Friday’s press conference. “You’re just saying, ‘I want to work on this. Let’s get the organics of this.'”

White wouldn’t reveal what the defense’s weaknesses are at the moment — “Minnesota’s watching,” he said — but emphasized that the unit is still growing. At this point, the coaches have the needed practice film, and will determine what they can add or take out to best utilize the defense’s strengths.

Players are continuing to settle in, including some that have years of experience in the program. White said fifth-year defensive back Quinton Newsome has had some of his best practices recently from a physical standpoint. Despite all the offseason changes, there are plenty of defensive players with significant starting experience on the roster, and the defensive coordinator has appreciated their work.

“Any time you got veteran leadership, it’s their team,” White said. “It’s their defense, right? And when they are the ones who are taking ownership, and they’re the ones pushing the guys and when you hear the echoes of Husker speed and dominant contact and hey, this is our standard you know, it’s usually those guys speaking.”

The staff is continuing to mesh as well. White appreciates that the energetic group of assistants keeps things light, and praised their football knowledge and experience. Most of all, he emphasized that it’s a collective effort.

“It’s really neat to be in the room and listen to all the ideas and then come together and make this our defense,” White said. “That’s the thing I can’t stress the most is that it is our defense.”

Friday’s media availability featured plenty of representatives from the linebacker group, including position coach Rob Dvoracek. Dvoracek is the youngest of the defensive assistants, having started his coaching career alongside head coach Matt Rhule right after playing under him. White complimented his attention to detail and ability to see the big picture.

“A lot of times, position coaches, they focus in on their position and they don’t understand how it affects all the others in terms of the totality of the defense. But he’s a very big picture guy,” he said. “He’s very keen on seeing something and seeing what reactions would happen.”

In less than three weeks, Nebraska will see how the defense looks in action against another team. Until then, White and the rest of the staff will continue to push for improvement. He wants to see his unit create more turnovers, and continue to fit into the team identity. He feels they’ve done well at the latter point.

“I like the fact that the young men are starting to take on the identity of what we want to do,” White said. “That’s the most important thing. We want to play with Husker speed and we want to have dominant contact and you see elements of it showing up on all three levels, from the d-line to the linebackers to the secondary guys.”

Other news and notes

>> White has an “idea” of how he wants to handle assigning Blackshirts for the coming season, although he didn’t reveal the details of that plan Friday. He said he’s spent time talking to others and getting educated on the tradition, and will have further discussions with Rhule.

“We’ll do it as we do it,” he said.

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