Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Working the Option, Preparing For Wolverines’ Ground Game and More Notes Ahead of Michigan

October 04, 2021

There are familiar offensive elements creeping back into Nebraska’s playbook. Nebraska is one of the team’s most identified with the option, even though the team hasn’t run it consistently since the days of Frank Solich roaming the sidelines.

The present-day Huskers have shown glimpses of mixing in option football under coach Scott Frost. Now it seems like a staple in the offense. Running back Rahmir Johnson thinks the team has come a long way running this version of the option.

“We’ve (gotten) a lot better with it,” Johnson said. “We do it almost every day. It’s the main focus in practice so that we get better. It’s gotten a lot better over time. I think it will be even better as the season progresses.”

Johnson has often been the dive man on Nebraska’s option plays. He does have experience running the option. His team ran it during his sophomore and junior year of high school. They switched the offense around his senior year.

There were some ugly moments at first with the team trying to perfect the option. This happened back in the spring when it was put into the playbook. Building that chemistry and getting comfortable with the plays was helpful. It was also a helpful reminder that if the team fumbled the ball the whole offense had to do up-downs.

Tight end Travis Vokolek also discussed the importance of ball security.

“Obviously, no one wants to do up-downs,” Vokolek said. “No one wants to do extra stuff. We’ve really, really worked on that in practice. We really emphasize how important it is for ball security and turnovers. It’s been a very important thing for us the last couple weeks.”

Frost rated the Huskers option runs at a six out of 10 right now. He’s leaving plenty of room for improvement as the season goes along. The level of trust has to be high between the players. That comes with practice. Quarterback Adrian Martinez has pitched the ball to many players this season.

Wide receiver Omar Manning has taken a handful of those pitches this season. Manning likes the added wrinkle of playing some more “old-school ball.” He didn’t have any prior experience with the option but said he picked it up quickly. The main thing for him was making sure his speed is right when he motions into the backfield. He knows that once the play starts, he has to be alert because Martinez could pitch it at any time.

“Oh yeah, you got to be alert right away because on that type of pitch as soon as you plant and come out that ball can come out right away,” Manning said. “You might take a few steps and then he pitches it. You got to be alert as soon as the ball is snapped.”

More news and notes:

>> Defensive end/outside linebacker Garrett Nelson knows the team is putting the big win behind them quickly. In their early look at Michigan, it looks like Saturday will be another classic Big Ten football game.

“They like the run the ball a lot,” he said. “They have a talented team obviously. They do a good job downhill running. They are a Big Ten team so we got to stop the run and make them a one-dimensional team.”

>> Nouredin Nouili was one of the breakout players from Saturday’s win. It was his first start as a Husker. His fellow lineman Teddy Prochazka also made his first start but as a true freshman. Nouili has been impressed with Prochazka noting that he does not seem like a freshman.

“No, he does not seem like a freshman,” Nouili said. “The athleticism he has at his weight and height is something I’ve never seen. The way he presents himself too. You can definitely see that he’s still young but the way he plays and his aggressiveness. He looks like All-Big Ten senior.”

>> Wide receiver Levi Falck has been seeing the field consistently over the last few weeks. It turns out that he had a small injury holding him back but now he is good to go.

“At the end of fall camp, I was kind of dealing with the little ankle,” Falck said. “It’s got a lot healthier now. I’ve been practicing better and they’ve been playing me more. That’s about it.”

The Nebraska pass catchers are getting healthy at the right time. That’s a key storyline to watch with the Huskers being in the meat of their schedule ahead of the bye week.

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