Nebraska junior linebacker Mohamed Barry is one of the most experienced inside backers on the Huskers’ roster in 2018. As a sophomore last year, Barry played in every game and recorded 38 tackles.
Unfortunately for players like Barry, many strong individual efforts last year, particularly on defense, were overshadowed by a 4-8 season.
In order to improve on 2017’s results, inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud has instilled a new, more aggressive playing style with Barry and the whole unit.
“Just the mentality of being vicious and attack mode,” Barry said. “(Ruud) is not happy with just a simple tackle. He doesn’t like that. He wants us to run through our tackles and make the ball carrier pay.”
Ruud played linebacker at Nebraska himself from 2001-2004, finishing with a school-record 432 tackles. He also enjoyed a successful eight-year career in the NFL. Once Barry learned that Ruud was coming back to his alma mater to coach linebackers, he watched Ruud’s old highlights.
“It always helps when you can watch a coaches’ highlight tape,” Barry said. “That right there, alone, gives you the most respect for your coach.”
After meeting Ruud in person, Barry’s respect for his new coach only grew.
“He treats us with respect, even though last year we didn’t live up to the linebacker group we should have been,” Barry said. “He understands that we will get there and we will become what he wants us to be.”
Ruud has talent to work with. Along with Barry, Luke Gifford, Will Honas and Dedrick Young bring plenty of experience and athleticism to the fold. Guys like Avery Roberts, Collin Miller and Jacob Weinmaster can provide depth.
With this whole group, Ruud makes sure that every drill, every detail, is helping his unit improve on the field. He’s also making sure each linebacker understands how those drills and details translate directly into on-the-field results.
“When Coach Ruud evaluates our practice, that’s what he wants to see – our individual drills carrying onto the field,” Barry said. “What I like about his drills is that everything makes sense and he makes sure what he preaches that we understand how it helps us.”
Barry says he feels leaner, faster and more durable after going through Zach Duval’s conditioning program this past spring and into this offseason.
One of Scott Frost’s most immediate fixes was strength and conditioning. He put his trust in Duval to condition the team for a successful 2018.
To Barry, a successful 2018 doesn’t have to mean a certain number of wins.
“Beating the opponents that people don’t think we can beat,” Barry said. “Being consistently a team that plays with heart, plays with pride, plays with poise. A team that the defense is one of the vocal points and the offense is unstoppable.”
You can contact Tommy at 402-840-5226, or you can follow him on Twitter @Tommy_KLIN.