The Nebraska football team practiced for a little under two hours on Wednesday outside on the Ed and Joyanne Gass practice fields. The Huskers spent a lot of time on the grass practice field, preparing for Ryan Field’s grass surface.
Following practice, Offensive Coordinator Troy Walters met with the media and broke down Northwestern’s defense as the Huskers prepare to take on the Wildcats Saturday at Ryan Field.
“They are not going to beat themselves,” Walters said. “They are the least penalized team in the country. They play sound football, tough, hard nose, very stout up front. They basically play with four defensive tackles on their defensive line. So, a great challenge up front. Secondary wise, in the back end, they’re going to be sound, disciplined. Like I said, they are not going to beat themselves. We can’t turn the ball over, can’t have the penalties and get behind the chains. If we do that, we are not going to be successful.”
Walters also spoke about utilizing true freshman running back Maurice Washington, as he’s a very versatile play maker. Washington has rushed for 155 yards and caught 10 passes for 79 yards in his four games this season.
“We’re going to find ways to get [Washington] the ball, find ways to match him up against someone that he has an advantage over. You’re going to see him in a number of different roles. We’ve got to be smart. He’s still a freshman. We can’t over work him, but we definitely have to try and find ways to get the ball in his hands because when he has the ball in his hands, he’s pretty special.”
Walters also discussed what the staff is looking for in an offensive player and how Washington has stepped up to that role.
“Those are the type of athletes we want, versatile players,” Walters said. “Running backs that can line up outside. Receivers that can line up as a running back. We want guys that have flexibility, versatility. That way when he is on the field, defensive coordinators don’t know where he’s going to be. Is he going to be a running back? Is he going to be a receiver? If they want to play man, as Wisconsin did, we lined [Washington] up outside, and we took advantage of him on a linebacker. He has the skill set of a receiver. There’s going to be times you see him out as a receiver and try to create a matchup on a linebacker, on the safeties that are not used to covering.”
Walters also acknowledged sophomore wide receiver JD Spielman for his positive attitude and how it helps him as a player.
“Every day [Spielman] comes to work,” Walters said. “He comes to be great. He wants to be great. Even after the game he had, he was talking about the two or three plays he didn’t make. There were a couple routes where he went a little too deep and the timing with the quarterback was off. There were two or three plays – if he had made – he probably would have had over 250 yards. He always wants to be great. He comes to work focused and ready to go. He just keeps getting better and better each game.”
Walters talked about the importance of getting the top guy into third-down plays, while being conscious of the defense’s scheme.
“[Spielman is] a good football player,” Walters said. “Anytime it’s third down, you want to make sure you’re targeting your top guy within the system. Some defenses, they try and take away your top guy on third down. We have to be smart. He’s consistent. We know where he’s going to be. The quarterback has confidence in him. Third down, he’s the guy we’re trying to get the ball to. [Senior wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr.] is another guy so we can move the chains.”
The Huskers will be back on the practice field on Thursday morning. Nebraska faces off against Northwestern this Saturday, Oct. 13 at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. at 11 a.m. (CT). The game will be televised on ABC.