LINCOLN — Nebraska didn’t have to go far to find the featured speaker for its annual spring football coaches clinic.
Tom Osborne, the former NU head coach and athletic director, will speak on March 29, the middle day of the three-day clinic. Osborne retired on Jan. 1 but remains at the Osborne Complex as athletic director emeritus.
Husker head coach Bo Pelini said it was “a natural” to bring in Osborne after having a number of big-name speakers in the past.
“His coaching record speaks for itself, but his impact on the game of football, this university and the state of Nebraska goes well beyond what happened on the field,” Pelini said. “I know everyone will appreciate the opportunity to hear from Coach Osborne.”
Osborne led Nebraska to three national championships and posted a 255-49-3 record over 25 years as Husker head coach. He returned to NU as athletic director in 2007.
Speakers at the clinic will include Husker staff, Iowa Western Community College coach Scott Strohmeier and several high school coaches. Camp participants also will get the chance to watch two NU practices.
Cost is $55 per person and information can be accessed on the football home page at Huskers.com or by calling 402-472-3116.
NU works out in pads
Nebraska’s third spring practice on Wednesday was its first in full pads.
“You’re playing football again once you get the pads on,” Pelini said. “Obviously the evaluation steps up a little bit.”
Pelini said he again saw both positives and things that need to be polished. But NU guard Spencer Long was among those glad to be in full pads for the first time since the Capital One Bowl.
“It’s great. Practice without pads is not practice, really,” Long said. “I mean, it is, but now that the pads get on it’s real football and it feels nice to get out here.”
Perlman chairs group
UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman was one of the last opponents of designing a playoff to end college football’s season. Now he’ll be the chairman of a group that helps design its structure.
Bowl Championship Series director Bill Hancock Wednesday appointed Perlman to lead the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee, replacing Virginia Tech’s Charles Steger, whose term is expiring. Perlman was named to the committee itself in June 2012, when a playoff was announced to start in the 2014 season.
“Harvey Perlman cares deeply about college football and will help guide us as we usher in the new playoff structure,” Hancock said. “We appreciate his continued leadership.”
Also on the committee: University of Texas president Bill Powers.
Pelini wants tone set
Pelini is reminding his new leaders on defense that it’s time to start setting the tone for a young unit.
That’s because Pelini knows that the Huskers’ inexperience will inevitably lead to mistakes in practice. And that creates frustration, which tends to become more and more contagious as the monotony of spring ball drags on.
“Spring’s about going to work and putting your work in,” Pelini said. “It’s not easy. It’s not a fun time of the year. You don’t have a game on the horizon.”
By the fall, Pelini’s certain the veterans will have taken charge. The team has “tremendous leadership (and) character potential,” he said.
It’s early. There are upperclassmen growing into their new roles on a unit tasked with replacing eight starters.
But Pelini did say that he took time Wednesday to make sure those players understood the importance of displaying on-field leadership. Starting now.
“When it gets difficult, that’s where the leadership’s got to step up,” Pelini said. “That’s where they’ve got to show the enthusiasm, bring the young guys along — when a guy makes a mistake and somebody’s frustrated, somebody’s got to help him through that. That’s all part of the process.”
Drill aids ball security
What’s that odd-looking drill Nebraska running backs are using to work on ball-handling? Give it a quick, easy name: The back-door drill.
Position coach Ron Brown picked it up on the coaching clinic circuit, fullback C.J. Zimmerer said. NU backs are required to carry a ball with a thin cloth over it while holding a rolled-up towel in their armpit. The cloth makes the ball slick, and if the towel falls to the turf during the drill, it exposes the ball to a defender’s strip from behind.
“If you’re squeezing the towel that whole time, that back door is always closed,” Zimmerer said. “If you drop the towel, the back door’s always open. You really got to squeeze it with your arm while squeezing the ball at the same time.”
The cloth is like “butter on the ball,” Zimmerer said.
The Huskers are ending their practices with “anyone who touches the ball” going another series of drills to work on ball security, Zimmerer said.
“High and tight, going through bags, all the little stuff,” Zimmerer said. “Even if we fumble the ball and still recover it, it’s still a wasted play.”
Bondi ready for action
Mauro Bondi understood why he redshirted last fall, when Nebraska had Brett Maher to handle its kicking and punting and decided not to waste one of Bondi’s seasons as a Husker.
That didn’t make it any easier, though.
“It was definitely hard being on the sidelines,” Bondi said Wednesday. “I definitely wanted to get my feet wet and get some more experience under my belt.”
That will come next season if the sophomore from Boca Raton, Fla., can win the place-kicking jobs. He also is working on his punting, where NU has redshirt freshman Sam Foltz as another candidate.
“If somebody better comes along, then that’s not a problem,” Bondi said. “But I do like kicking field goals and kickoffs right now. The punting’s kind of a secondary thing to me.”
Bondi said he is taking the same approach as last spring despite the circumstances being different with Maher gone.
“Just keeping that same focus,” he said. “Nothing really changes now. You move up the ranks as people leave, and I’m just trying to take on a leadership role with special teams.”
More practice reps
The Husker defense split in half to begin Wednesday’s practice, receiving instructions in two separate walkthroughs before warmups.
It’s something NU has done in the past, but plans to do more often going forward, Pelini said.
So far this spring, Nebraska has emphasized practicing with at least two groups going at once (for example: the first team working at one end of the field, and the second repping at the other).
“Guys are getting a lot of reps, and a lot of opportunities to show what they can do,” Pelini said.
Mark Pelini injured
Junior center Mark Pelini will miss a few days of practice with a muscle injury, Bo Pelini said.
It’s not serious, the coach said.
In other injury news, he said, sophomore tight end David Sutton (hamstring) has missed a couple of days.
— Rich Kaipust, Sam McKewon and Jon Nyatawa