The Nebraska football team continued its preparations for its primetime Big Ten conference opener Saturday night with the Illinois Fighting Illini, as the Huskers conducted a 1-hour and 50-minute practice Tuesday afternoon. The Huskers practice both inside of the Hawks Championship Center and outside on the Ed and Joyanne Gass Practice Fields.
Defensive coordinator John Papuchis met with media members after practice, mentioning that the overall defensive maturity has been the thing that he has been most impressed with so far this season.
“I would say as much as anything is our maturity, in terms of when things have happened during the games that haven’t been good for us, we have responded relatively well,” Papuchis said. “That was probably one of the things that bothered me the most in the last couple years, things started to snowball on us.”
Papuchis added that the team’s maturity has really improved with the increased confidence and mental strength shown on the team.
“We have a lot of guys that have a lot of snaps under their belt, but they have realized you have to keep playing and believe in what we are doing and have confidence that we are going to get things squared away,” Papuchis said.
Freshman cornerback Joshua Kalu made an enormous impact for the Blackshirts this past weekend against Miami, as the first year player made his first career interception in the second half of the game. So far, Papuchis has really liked what he has seen out of Kalu, noting that he is a football smart kid.
“First of all he is a very good football player, athletically gifted, beyond that he is mature and smart,” Papuchis said. “He is a football smart kid, I think when he leaves this facility he spends a lot of time with his playbook because when he makes a mistake he corrects it the next time.”
When asked what he and the coaching staff is preparing for defensively, Papuchis said the Illini’s offensive scheme is very multiple, with different variations of the spread offense and pro-style offense.
“They are as multiple of an offense as you can be, I think they have every personnel grouping that you can have,” he said. “The big sets, spread four-wide sets, and they run a lot of empty. They force you to prepare for a lot of different things.”
The Nebraska football team will continue its week of preparation Wednesday as the Huskers prepare for Saturday’s game. Kickoff between the two Big Ten West foes will be nationally televised on Big Ten Network at 8pm (CT).