Practice was open Wednesday morning. Quarterbacks were watched, the Huskers’ new running back was unofficially “unveiled,” new drills were seen and there were plenty of big-picture questions for offensive coordinator Troy Walters to answer after practice ended. He called the offense dangerous in the spring. Does he feel even better now? How’s the quarterback battle going? Who wins the starting running back job?
To all of it, he says “day by day.”
That’s the team motto. Those questions will get answered before the Huskers open the season against Akron on Sept. 1 (or most of them, hopefully) but until then, Walters wants the offense to take things one day at a time.
“We’re looking at the process and not jumping ahead,” he said. “I’m very confident in the offense and the scheme and the coaches and now it’s just about getting the players to understand everything and for them to play fast and confidently.”
So far so good. Walters said the team hasn’t taken any steps back from where they left off in the spring despite adding a plethora of new faces to the team. Coach Scott Frost talked about needing consistent energy before fall camp kicked off, Walters has felt good about that during the first five practices.
“Guys stepped on that field and they were ready to go,” Walters said. “Any time you put the pads on there’s that extra juice and there’s a part of it where we made it live for three plays and guys got after it. It was good to see that when we throw the pads on, we don’t take a step back. That’s very encouraging.”
Echoing comments defensive coordinator Erik Chinander made Monday, Walters also praised the competition levels so far.
“We’re deeper than we were in the spring across the board, so it shows up in practice,” he said. “Receivers versus DBs, they’re getting after it. They’re making us better we’re making them better. The old guys have embraced the younger guys. We’re a family and we understand that we need everybody in order to be successful and so the older guys have taken the younger guys under their wings.”
There are battles going on at almost every spot on the roster (except wideout, Stanley Morgan Jr. is probably safe) and that’s how the coaching staff wants it. Walters was mostly non-committal when talking about the quarterback race and splitting up running back carries, instead focusing on more of the general team. Having guys push each other each and every day is, the coaching staff feels, how they’re going to get better.
“We always want guys to know that there’s a man behind him waiting to take his position,” Walters said. “Each day, day-by-day, you’ve got to come and compete and bring your ‘A’ game.”
If they do that, if the team focuses on the day-to-day battles and the details and the fine points of the offense instead of the larger picture, Walters likes his group's chances this season.
“If we do that and we get better each day, the sky’s the limit,” he said of the Husker offense. “I think this could be one of the top offenses in the Big Ten if we take care of business each day.”
Other News and Notes
>> Running back Tre Bryant is healthy, excited and “full go.”
“We’re going to be smart with his reps and make sure that he’s ready to go Sept. 1 but he looks good,” Walters said. “He’s making all the cuts, you can tell he’s been in the playbook over the summer and even in the spring and he knows what to do and he’s worked his tail off to get back on that field. He’s going to be an added bonus to our offense.”
Walters was highly complimentary of another back too, recent arrival Maurice Washington, saying “he’s special.” Quarterbacks Adrian Martinez and Tristan Gebbia also praised the freshman. Martinez called him "a damn good player." We’ll have more on him later.
>> Quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco says the top three quarterbacks — Martinez, Gebbia and walk-on Andrew Bunch — are all getting equal reps in practice. So far, there hasn't been any separation that he'll admit to.
"They're all right there," he says. "They're battling."
>> On his new receivers, Walters labeled JUCO transfer Jaron Woodyard one of the fastest guys on the team. He also singled out freshman Andre Hunt as another newcomer that has looked good.
>> Martinez was 198 when he got to Nebraska. He said the last time he weighed in he was at 218. He says the heaviest he's gotten is 220. Oh, and he says he feels "faster than I've been."
The freshman also held court with the media longer than anyone else Wednesday, staying for about 20 minutes to answer questions. After, he met a family in the bridge between Memorial Stadium and the Hawks Championship Center to talk and sign a few autographs for a few kids. Verduzco says he has no questions about the maturity levels of his young quarterback.
>> Last Thursday, guard Tanner Farmer said new wideout Mike Williams might be pound-for-pound one of the strongest guys on the team. Williams is a built 5-foot-10, 185-pounder, and his offseason workouts have been well documented on Twitter. That was as expected with Walters.
“That was the one thing when we brought Mike in, talking to him on the phone and getting to know him, was his work ethic, his hunger, his passion,” Walters said. “He wants to be great.”
Walters, a former NFL wideout, isn’t much bigger than Williams. He said the two have sort of bonded over being the little guys in a room typically reserved for lanky, tall guys. Walters said he and Williams have talked about having to “do things extra” and having to “do things better than the other guys” simply because of their size.
“He’s taken that to heart,” Walters says. “I expect great things out of him.”
>> The Summer of Stoll continues as Jack Stoll was the first tight end mentioned by Walters when asked about the group. Then it was redshirt freshman Austin Allen, then it was freshman Katerian Legrone. Walters said Legrone is a guy they will flex out wide as well, adding “we’ll find roles for each of them.”
>> Farmer, Morgan and guard Jerald Foster were identified as guys that have taken leadership roles with the offense. Foster led a portion of the warm-up Wednesday.
“Those guys have been in the fire, they understand what it takes,” Walters said. “Those three have really caught my eye and my attention in terms of leadership.”
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.