After practicing in half pads for the first two workouts of spring, the Huskers put on full pads on Thursday morning and got the first taste of solid contact football in 2018.
Offensive coordinator Troy Walters saw intensity and enthusiasm, but not as much early on.
“Offensively, we came out sluggish,” Walters said. “Sometimes, when you put the pads on, and you put thigh pads and knee pads, sometimes offensively you have that mentality ‘I’m putting more weight on.’ We didn’t come out and we didn’t attack today. The defense came out, they attacked. We started too slow.
“I tell the guys all the time, in a game, we start that way, we’re down 14-0. In this league, the schedule we play, when we step on that field, we’ve got to attack and be ready to go. We really weren’t early on in practice.”
Walters said the energy improved at least a little as the day went on, but eventually wants his unit’s mindset to match that of a game day in fall.
“We threw a new install at the guys,” he said. “They’re kind of swimming a little bit today. You can kind of tell who really took it to heart to learn the new installs and who didn’t. We need to go back and watch the film and see what we really need to improve on. It’s about the details.”
Walters was quick to point out that senior receiver Stanley Morgan did a “great job” learning the new install, calling him a “pro.”
As a group however, Walters said the offense “just wasn’t on it.”
“Everybody has to be on the same page,” Walters said. “If the offensive line knows what they’re doing but the receivers don’t, this offense is not going to go. We expect a better practice on Saturday.”
Type of Offense
Walters played in the NFL as a wide receiver and punt returner from 2000-2007 on three different teams. Before UCF, he had coaching experience at Indiana State, NC State, Colorado and Texas A&M.
He likes UCF’s style of offense better than any type he’s been around college or pro, and he hopes to keep it going in Lincoln.
“You can do so much out of this offense,” Walters said. “You can put guys in different situations, different positions to be successful. You can get creative. As long as you understand the base, you can do so many things out of it, and we’ve got a great staff. Coaches that really think outside the box. Every game, it’s a new game plan, and we’re coming up with creative ways to be successful.
“Not only best offensive system I’ve been a part of, best offensive staff I’ve been a part of.”
Coach Mario Verduzco said his group did “okay” on their first day in full pads.
“I didn’t notice any movement difference from the pajamas (half-pads),” he said. “We threw two picks today, which I was irritated about, and we had two near misses. But, up to this point, with regards to the practices we’ve had, with the reps we’ve thrown in terms of the pass game, we’ve been pretty good, but we can’t let those things happen.”
Junior Michael Decker is unavailable this spring as he recovers from a leg injury that kept him out of the last handful of games in 2017.
Offensive line coach Greg Austin said freshman Will Farniok, redshirt freshman Hunter Miller, and seniors Jerald Foster and Tanner Farmer are taking snaps and cross training between the guard and center position.
Coach Frost mentioned after Tuesday’s practice that snapping the ball was a little sloppy at times, but it seems to have been a little better on Thursday.
“They’re doing well,” Austin said. “Doing well. (A center’s) calls gives the guards and tackles confidence.”
Farniok is the youngest among the group of players snapping the ball at center, but it hasn’t shown on the field.
“Will is awesome,” Austin said. “He’s an awesome kid. He’s very smart and cerebral. He picks up things well. He has a natural ability to snap the ball.”
While Coach Austin might not get on Will, his older brother, Matt Farniok, has picked up the slack.
“Will’s brother is the one that gets in his ass now,” Austin said. “If Will doesn’t know something or takes the wrong step or he does the wrong thing, I damn near don’t even have to say anything to Will. Matt’s in his ass like, ‘You should be doing this,’ and I’m like, ‘Matt, calm down. (Will’s) an 18-year-old kid.'”
McQuitty missed all of 2017 with a knee injury after showing the capabilities of playing last fall. Now that he’s full healthy, Walters is seeing those capabilities this spring.
“He’s shown flashes,” Walters said. “Really, this is his freshman year. He missed all of last year, missed all of fall camp and the season with a knee injury, so he’s worked his butt of to get back. So really, he’s a freshman. Sometimes, when you install a bunch, things can kind of get overwhelming, but he has all of the talent in the world and all of the tools in the world, so we’re going to keep working with him, and I expect him to be out there in the fall making plays and contributing on offense.”
This and That
- Despite some disappointment with the energy in practice, Walters said the team’s continued buy-in and belief in the bigger picture makes the coaching staff’s job easier when teaching a new install.
“When you ask them to be at a 7:30 meeting, they’re there at 7:20,” Walters said.
- Coach Austin, who played offensive line at Nebraska from 2003-2006, said “it’s a dream come true” to be coaching offensive line at the same place he played as a college athlete.
- Tight ends coach Sean Beckton said he likes where his group is at through three practices, saying they have even exceeded expectations so far.
- Running backs coach Ryan Held said he’s seen glimpses of everyone in his group being able to do “something with this offense,” noting the ability they’ve show to catch the ball out of the backfield – something that will likely be seen a lot in this system.
- Held mentioned the senior backs, Devine Ozigbo, Mikale Wilbon and Austin Rose, have gotten “the first crack” at playing on first team because of their experience, but he said that could change once the team scrimmages.
You can contact Tommy at 402-840-5226, or you can follow him on Twitter @Tommy_KLIN.