Last season, UCF’s offensive coordinator and Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator were both finalists for the Broyles Award, given annually to the top assistant coach in college football. So, of course, the two men spent time together down in Little Rock, Arkansas, where the award is presented.
As many are probably aware of by now, UCF’s offensive coordinator is now Nebraska’s offensive coordinator. Troy Walters knows what he’s about to get from Wisconsin.
“They’re a reflection of their defensive coordinator,” he said. “[Jim Leonhard] played 10, 12 years in the league, undersized, played with passion and enthusiasm and that’s what they do. They’re sound fundamentally, they’re not going to beat themselves, they’re tough and they really reflect their entire coaching staff.”
As head coach Scott Frost put it Monday, they’re the opposite of Nebraska.
“We’ve got our work cut out,” Walters said Wednesday after practice when he met with the media. “We know where they’re going to line up, it’s just a matter of us executing and doing our jobs and not making the dumb mistakes and having the penalties and turnovers.”
There have been a lot of those this season. Nebraska is second-to-last in the Big Ten in giveaways and second-to-last in the country in penalties a game. Offensively, the Huskers have been hot and cold all season, flashing promise while also slipping into stretches of undisciplined play.
In the opener against Colorado, when the Huskers totaled 565 yards of offense, Nebraska looked how this coaching staff wants it to look. It looked the part in the third quarter against Purdue last Saturday, when it gashed the Boilermakers for three straight touchdown drives.
“That’s what we want to do,” Walters said. “We showed the offense, when we do things the right way and everybody’s on the same page and we’re fundamentally sound and disciplined, these are the results. We can go down and score on anybody. We can go down and put up 21 points in a quarter. Those should be our standards.”
The 16th-ranked Badgers (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) have the second-best scoring defense in the Big Ten through four games, surrendering just 14.5 points an outing. The Huskers will need to be up to standards to keep Saturday interesting.
Other News and Notes
>> Late Tuesday night, news broke that sophomore wideout Tyjon Lindsey had asked for and been granted a scholarship release from Nebraska. The move comes after four appearances in 2018 for Lindsey, who will utilize the new redshirt rules to maintain redshirt status for this season and transfer after the year.
Walters said the move was a shocker.
“He was getting better and better but he was frustrated with the reps he was getting and so he wanted to move on,” Walters said. “We’ve got to focus on the guys that are here. We feel like we’ve got enough talent to win with the guys that are here and it gives other guys the opportunities to go out there and make plays and help this team win.”
The wideout coach and offensive coordinator also added that this is certainly an unintended consequence of the new redshirt rules in place — several high-profile schools have already experienced similar situations in recent weeks — but the staff isn’t going to worry too much about it. He said they have “certain guys in mind” they’re going to redshirt and will continue to work with them.
>> Offensive line coach Greg Austin said he felt tackles Brenden Jaimes and Matt Farniok had their best games of the season against Purdue.
>> When running backs coach Ryan Held informed former starter Greg Bell of the decision to roll with Devine Ozigbo as the team’s leading back last week, Held said Bell initially took it rough.
“I’ll be honest, and [Bell] knows this, last week when I told him Devine was starting he might have gotten in his feelings a little bit and he maybe felt sorry for himself,” Held said. “When you feel sorry for yourself, you’re worrying about things you can’t control.”
Frost said Bell and freshman Maurice Washington had their best practices of the season on Monday. Washington didn’t play in Saturday’s game either. Held still trusts both. Specifically asked about Bell, he said sometimes it takes junior college guys anywhere between half a season and a whole season to get comfortable at the FBS level.
>> Walk-on wideout Kade Warner starting last Saturday’s game and then appearing atop the Huskers’ depth chart for this week was a product of making the most of your opportunity.
“We came out on Monday and Andre Hunt was out with a knee injury and I threw Kade in on the outside because we needed depth … I was really throwing him out there to get through practice,” Walters said.
“He had a good Monday, a good Tuesday and made some plays, knew what he was doing. He’s a guy that you know is going to do the right thing. He knows what to do, he’s another coach on the field and so if another younger guy is in, he might get Jaron Woodyard lined up or someone else lined up. You just feel comfortable with him out there.
So Nebraska gave him a chance. And the Huskers will continue to give him a chance. Practice better than anyone else and you’ll play. That’s what this staff preaches.
>> Several Huskers have said throughout the week that offensively, against Wisconsin, there are only going to be about 60 plays available. Asked if the offense might look to slow things down given limited opportunity, Held said no.
Nebraska needs to be more efficient in execution, he said, but they’re not going to change who they are for anyone.
>> Walters has a saying for his wideouts: “No block, no rock.” He said perimeter blocking is a “huge” part of the Husker offense.
“If you can’t hold up on the perimeter, you’re probably not going to play as much as you’d like to,” he said. “Plays are created because receivers are getting after it downfield.”
>> Quarterback coach Mario Verduzco wants his quarterbacks even-keeled in practice. He doesn’t want moods. He said if guys are calm in practice, that’ll translate to the field on Saturday regardless of venue.
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.