Nebraska already seeing benefits of new coaches on first day of spring practice | Football

On the first day of Nebraska’s new offense, head coach Scott Frost saw that some of his new assistant coaches still needed to know where to go during the opening spring practice.

He’s loved sitting in a room with Mark Whipple, Bryan Applewhite, Mickey Joseph and Donovan Raiola and listening to their ideas, but it’s a different thing entirely, Frost said, to execute that in practice with new terminology.

“It’s amazing what you have to go through to make sure you’re on the same page,” Frost said.

“It’s been a grind,” NU tight end Travis Vokolek said of learning some of the nuances of Whipple’s scheme.

Still, Frost said, the presence of Whipple allowed Frost on Monday to hang out more with the defense. He’s carrying less of the load on offense.

More notes from Frost and player interviews:

>>Nebraska’s top tackler from last season, inside linebacker Luke Reimer, will miss most and perhaps all of spring camp while recovering from surgery. In his absence, it’s likely Eteva Mauga-Clements will work alongside starter Nick Henrich with the No. 1 defense, as one inside ‘backer, Chris Kolarevic, will work some at nickel and another, Garrett Snodgrass, is banged up. Gabe Ervin will miss all of spring as well.

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>>Not a ton of talk on NU quarterbacks – Frost didn’t know which QB took the first snap with the No. 1 offense, because he was with the No. 2 group – but Frost expects the new QBs to hold accountable teammates.

>>Vokolek said he’s “coming along” in healing a shoulder that was injured last season. He’ll participate in non-contact drills. Vokolek said it’s been “a dream come true” for his dad, DJ, to be on the staff for Vokolek’s senior year. DJ came from Northern Iowa, where he was a full-time assistant, to analyst/support role at Nebraska. He is missing Austin Allen, the 2021 Big Ten Tight End of the Year who is working out this week at the NFL Combine in hopes of being selecting in the 2022 NFL Draft.

>>Running back Rahmir Johnson called the new coaches on offense – and the vibe they’ve created – as “energetic.” It’s what NU needed, Johnson said, after a 3-9 season in which the offense fell just short in so many games. Johnson said his new position coach, Bryan Applewhite, is like “an uncle on the field” who will get on players while loving them on the next play if they do well.

Johnson said the running backs room has improved in the offseason, particularly Jaquez Yant, who has gotten bigger and faster, and is more focused on executing plays as called.

>>Garrett Nelson had a hoarse voice as he talked to the media. He, like a number of younger defensive guys in the program, are trying to bolt their leadership now that a glut of older players like JoJo Domann, Cam Taylor-Britt and Ben Stille have graduated from the program.

“Obviously I can’t be yelling all the time,” Nelson said. Part of being a good leader, Nelson said, is encouraging players to trust in their instincts.

“Play and be free and go have fun,” Nelson said.

Frost said Nelson, a Scottsbluff grad, has done a “great job” during winter conditioning.

NU defensive lineman Ty Robinson – who described himself as a “lead by example guy” – said Nelson is the most vocal of all the defensive line/outside linebackers on the team.

The linemen and outside ‘backers meet together, in essence, under coach Mike Dawson.

>>Quinton Newsome, for example, is now the old guy in the NU defensive backs room and the primary returning starter from the 2021 secondary. Newsome said he’s taken on more of a vocal leadership role. He knows new NU defensive back Javier Morton from an Atlanta-area 7-on-7 team both played on years ago.

“I think I can teach them how to stay focused,” Newsome said. With a “lot of spots open,” Newsome said, defensive backs coach Travis Fisher is hoping for players to “attack” the spring camp.

“Everybody’s bringing different vibes,” Newsome said. The DBs, known as being tight, go bowling and to the mall together.

>>Nelson said the quarterbacks “did a really good job” on the first day of practice. Nelson first mentioned Logan Smothers and Casey Thompson.

>>Inside linebacker Nick Henrich said he could tell the defensive line – trying to replace four contributors from last season – was “hungry” on Monday. Henrich mentioned freshman defensive tackle Nash Hutmacher — one of the biggest, strongest players on the team, Henrich said — jumped out for taking up blockers. Robinson said each of the eight interior linemen got 20-30 reps in the opening practice.

“It showed us how out of football shape we were,” Robinson fitted.

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