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Spring Practice (1 Viewer)

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Nebraska Spring Ball: Open Practice Notes & Observations​

Matt Rhule





Matt Rhule (Greg Smith/Inside Nebraska)
Staff
Inside Nebraska
Matt Rhule knows he’s going to be playing important conference games in November at Nebraska. And on Tuesday morning, during the team’s fifth practice of the spring, it felt like a mid-November game in Madison or Cockeye City.
Temperatures were around 25 degrees when the players were being shuffled between drills that were inside the Hawks Championship Center and outside in the chilly Lincoln air.
For a brief moment, when watching the players’ breathe in the cold air, it felt like football – even if it's just spring football.
Here are a few practice notes and observations from the Inside Nebraska crew:

Zack Carpenter:​

>>> Just like last week, there were groups of players wearing yellow jerseys and green jerseys to signify that they are injured or limited in practice, respectively.
>>> Some of the players in yellow jerseys included QB Casey Thompson, safety Marques Buford Jr., LB Michael Booker III, WR Ty Hahn and punter Jacob Hohl. There were four others in yellow jerseys, but I couldn't confirm who they were. The players in yellow jerseys were on the far side of the outdoor practice facility working on stationary bikes, stretching and doing some jogging.
>>> The players in green jerseys were the same as last week: OT Teddy Prochazka, DB Javin Wright, DB Dwight Bootle II and DL Brodie Tagaloa. EDGE-turned-TE Jake Appleget was also in a green jersey.
>>> There were also two players wearing gray jerseys on Tuesday: DB Jalil Martin and TE AJ Rollins. Those jerseys signify guys who are practicing on both sides of the ball. Martin is now practicing at both receiver and defensive back while Rollins is working as both a tight end and a defensive lineman.
>>> Tuesday's setup did not provide us as extensive of a look as we got during last week's first open practice. Just like last week, we were allowed a 40-minute period at the beginning of practice to observe the Huskers. Today, though, a big chunk of that 40 minutes featured a stretching period, a Rhule speech to open things up in which he challenged the team to be more united and bring more intensity, and then the Huskers went into special teams drills. The last 5-7 minutes of the open window is when they split up into individual offensive and defensive groups.
>>> There were three different groups working during individual defensive drills. The main thing that stood out during that period was the player groupings, which was the same setup as last week: Defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs were all mixed together, and they rotated around three stations being led by DL coach Terrance Knighton on the sleds (working on taking on blocks, shedding them and ripping through to pursue the ball carrier), LB coach Rob Dvoracek on form tackling and secondary coach Evan Cooper on footwork such as backpedaling.
>>> I'm not sure if the groupings tell us a ton about the personnel yet, but it did stand out that a large portion of last year's starters and players who we believe will have a significant role were all in one of the groups together.
>>> That group featured defensive linemen Nash Hutmacher, Princewill Umanmielen and Cameron Lenhardt, linebackers MJ Sherman, Chief Borders, Luke Reimer and John Bullock (one of the two players, alongside Malcolm Hartzog, who DC Tony White mentioned last week as players who were impressing him so far) and defensive backs Hartzog, Quinton Newsome, Myles Farmer, Corey Collier Jr., Omar Brown and Tommi Hill.
>>> In another group up were defensive linemen Kai Wallin, Brodie Tagaloa, Ru'Quan Buckley, linebackers Kaine Williams, Maverick Noonan, Randolph Kpai, Korver Demma and Seth Malcom and defensive backs DeShon Singleton, Tamon Lynum, Phalen Sanford, Syncere Safeeullah, Derek Branch and Blake Closman. Rollins was also inside working with the defense as part of that group as he begins to practice on both offense and defense.
>>> In another group were about a dozen players that included defensive linemen Elijah Jeudy, Stephon Wynn Jr., Jacob Herbek, linebackers Jimari Butler, Grant Buda, Mikai Gbayor and defensive backs Noa Pola-Gates and Koby Bretz.
>>> Update (11:45 a.m.): Rhule was asked about the defensive personnel groupings and said they are not already being separated into 1s, 2s and 3s:
“They’re just doing circuits, defensive circuits," Rhule said. "I think we just try to pair up, make sure there’s two really big guys. What we can’t do is … go skills/DBs (in a separate group), because we have more DBs than any team in the country right now. (Normally, it would be separated as) DBs, linebackers, bigs. So we just kind of move them around and pair guys up. When we rotate it, we have what we call A, B and C, but those change.
“I told the guys – and I really believe this – I can’t even begin to think about a depth chart until the fall. In fact, I tell the staff all the time, please do not evaluate their technical skills and drills like ‘this guy can do that, he can’t do that’ yet. Try to improve it. We will look at skillsets and traits – this guy’s explosive, this guy’s twitchy. In our system, you come in, we’re teaching the offense and defense right now. And then, over the summer, we’ll try to improve it. Then, in training camp, fall camp, we’ll try to perfect it. And then, in the season, we’ll try to execute it.”
>>> Running backs coach E.J. Barthel and receivers coach Garret McGuire were working with the kick return units. Barthel was coaching the returners while McGuire was coaching the blocking unit.
>>> Josh Fleeks and Emmett Johnson were the first two return men to take reps during the drill. Billy Kemp IV and Rahmir Johnson was the second pair to rep the drill.

Steve Marik:​

>>> Running back Anthony Grant was back at practice and competing with the rest of his teammates. He began the spring suspended and unable to practice.
>>> Class of 2023 defensive line signee Riley Van Poppel was in attendance to take in the action, as was 2023 receiver signee Malachi Coleman. Coleman has been around the program quite a bit and has been at multiple spring practices.
>>> At one point, Coleman was walking around on one of the outside fields near Hawks, and special teams coordinator Ed Foley came up to the recruit. Whatever Foley said, it brought a big smile to Coleman’s face, and the two shared a laugh.
>>> Offensive lineman Nouredin Nouili, who was suspended last year but is a candidate to start at either left or right guard, was stacking good reps Tuesday. Offensive line coach Donovan Raiola was loving what he was seeing from the lineman.
>>> Offensive tackle Teddy Prochazka, wearing a green “limited” jersey once again, was getting praise from Raiola as well. But after one rep, Raiola was heard screaming, “Watch your hands, watch your hands!”
>>> Ethan Piper, a candidate to start at either guard spot or be the primary center, took Evans-Jenkins off to the side and showed him correct technique for the specific drill the linemen were doing.
>>> Here were the combinations for the quarterback-center snap drills: Jeff Sims and Ben Scott; Heinrich Haarberg and Keegan Menning (walk-on); Chubba Purdy and Justin Evans-Jenkins; Richard Torres (no center) and walk-on Jack Woche (no center)

Geoff Exstrom:​

>>> Grant Buda seems to have established himself on special teams. The sophomore walk-on from Lincoln Southwest was the middle man in the punt shield for some reps. While he was mainly on the second team unit, he was seen with the first team unit in last week's practice as part of the punt shield.
>>> Form tackling was a big emphasis in one of the drills with secondary coach Evan Cooper. He instructed defenders to not lunge, but explode through their hips to create more power in the team's tackling. In fact, during the drill Cooper would close his eyes and judge each rep by the sound of the pads on impact.
 

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