The biggest headline out of Nebraska’s ninth practice of the spring on Thursday was the announcement of sophomore quarterback Patrick O’Brien being granted a release from Nebraska.
You can read more on that story here.
Offensive coordinator Troy Walters liked the energy from the team in their first “stadium practice” of the spring.
“Felt great,” Walters said. “Anytime you can practice on Memorial Stadium, all of the tradition and history involved with that stadium, it was awesome. I actually caught a punt before practice just to add it to my bucket list as catching a punt in Memorial Stadium. A special feeling, and I think our guys understand how special it is, and they came out and had a good practice.”
Walters said the entire offense has been installed, and he expects to see his unit grasp the system better going forward as they get more reps.
“The guys have a pretty good knowledge of what we expect,” Walters said. “Now, they’re able to go out there this summer and execute and they’re going to practice on their own this summer. Now, they kind of know what to practice, what to do. So, when we come back in the fall, we don’t miss a beat.”
Walters again reassured this offense is further along than UCF’s offense was in 2016 – the first season that Frost’s staff took over.
Senior Stanley Morgan and sophomores Tyjon Lindsey and J.D. Spielman are all expected to be leaders at their respective position this season. However, Walters is impressed with some up-and-comers behind them.
“Jaevon McQuitty has done a good job,” Walters said. “Justin McGriff is another guy, a freshman, that we’re throwing a lot at him, but physically he has what it takes. Mike Williams has done a great job. He’s played inside and outside, so he’s going to be valuable come the fall.”
Walters told his receivers that it’s a “pencil depth chart” in spring, and receivers who come on campus in the fall like Dominick Watt and Andre Hunt could put themselves in the mix.
Miles Jones and Katerian Legrone, who are expected to play a variety of positions, could also factor in.
The son of former Nebraska receivers coach Keith Williams missed all of last season with a hamstring injury.
Williams is now a senior, and seems to be adapting to the new offense well.
“He understands how to get open,” Walters said. “He understands how to run routes. Fundamentally and technically, he’s sound so he’s a guy that you can tell he’s been around football. He’ll just continue to get better.”
Walters received a call from Keith Williams a couple weeks back to say that “his son is loving the new staff and is 100 percent bought in.”
Much like the last three seasons, Nebraska has a large group of capable running backs this spring, but no one has separated themselves thus far.
“They’re all doing a good job,” Walters said. “I feel confident and comfortable that we’re going to have 3-4 guys to run the rock. We’ll probably have running back by committee, which is good, because we’ll be able to wear defenses down. They all do different things well.”
Running backs coach Ryan Held said sophomore Jaylin Bradley has picked up where left off since making several big plays his freshman year.
“I think he fits this offense,” Held said. “When we were at UCF, we liked him. He’s a longer, bigger kid. He’s got good hands. He’s picking it up, he’s engaged, he’s fluent, he’s smooth. I think Jaylin Bradley has a bright future. I like where he’s at to be honest with you.”
Held said Miles Jones will start out as a receiver, but he will be taught the “intricacies” of the running back position, much like UCF’s Otis Anderson last season.
As a freshman, Anderson was a receiver who dueled as a running back in 2017, rushing for 456 yards and four touchdowns and hauling in 28 passes for 334 yards and three scores.
Mario Verduzco talked more on the quarterback race, saying Tristan Gebbia has done a nice job adjusting to Frost’s style of offense despite being recruited for pro style.
“All of the quarterbacks when we first got here really adapted well from an Xs and Os mental standpoint,” Verduzco said. “Tristan’s awesome. He’s a great young cat. Sometimes, he can be a little hard on himself, so I just remind him, ‘Play, have fun, do what you need to do, get your eyeballs and feet in the right place, and you let me coach the rest of it, and things will work out.'”
Coach Frost said on Wednesday’s Big Ten Teleconference that picking out the top quarterback in a group of solid athletes can sometimes come down to a gut feeling.
Verduzco hopes he can add as much objectivity as possible when it comes to picking a starter.
“It might be just a gut decision between Frost and myself,” Verduzco said. “But ultimately, he’s the head ball coach, and it’s my job to make that recommendation and we’ll go from there.”
- Former UCF head coach and Frost’s predecessor George O’Leary, who was the head coach in Orlando from 2004-2015, ran a pro style offense like Mike Riley. Verduzco said the teaching of Nebraska’s quarterbacks to go from pro-style to a run-pass-option (RPO) style offense is almost identical to when he coached UCF’s QBs through that transition in the spring of 2016.
- Offensive line coach Greg Austin called Thursday’s practice “another step forward” after what he called a “day of adversity” last Saturday.
- Austin also mentioned senior left guard Jerald Foster as someone who’s taken a leadership role in his room. “The game reps he has under his belt really show up when you’re getting some stuff jumped up off the ground,” Austin said. “He’s been a very productive and steady player.”
- Tight ends coach Sean Beckton said the toughest aspect facing his group this spring is “the number of different looks” that defensive coordinator Erik Chinander’s defense shows them during practice. “We get 120-130 reps per practice,” Beckton said. “A lot of film work and a lot of reps.”