As Nebraska prepares for a road grader of an offensive line and an All-America-level running back, Erik Chinander borrowed a line from a hall of fame coach.
Do your job. If the Huskers are going to hang with the 15th-ranked Badgers on Saturday, they would do well to follow the maxim from New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
“If everybody did their job every play on defense, we probably win three more games,” said Chinander, NU’s defensive coordinator. “And I’m sure it’s the same way on offense and special teams. But everybody needs to do their job every play. In this type of game, everybody needs to play in their gap. Everybody needs to execute. Or that guy gets a crack this big and she’s over.”
Defensive coaches and players Tuesday praised Wisconsin for both its clarity of identity and efficiency in executing its plan. The Badgers are 28th nationally in yards per carry (5.04) led by future NFL draft pick Jonathan Taylor. No FBS school holds the ball longer than UW with its average time of possession of 36 minutes, 51 seconds.
Inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud said Wisconsin’s precision is what makes the challenge so great. Even if defenders correctly diagnose a play, they still have to defeat blocks and be in the right place at the right time.
Other Huskers warned about being lulled to sleep by steady pounding of 3- and 4-yard runs only to give up a big pass play. Cornerback Lamar Jackson said NU needs to stay disciplined in that regard and not fall into the confusion that Wisconsin’s presnap shifts can create.
“Just as much as they run the ball, they can pass the ball,” Jackson said. “They got the guys capable to make the plays. So we all gotta be locked in together.”
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Newcomers set for larger roles
The plan all along was for two of Nebraska’s most talented new defensive linemen to make November their time. Now it’s about to unfold that way.
D-line coach Tony Tuioti said to expect to see junior college transfer Jahkeem Green and true freshman Ty Robinson in the final three regular-season games. Green has appeared in one contest, while Robinson, a coveted recruit out of Arizona, has yet to make his college debut.
Both linemen are on track to redshirt under the four-game rule. Both will also figure prominently into Nebraska’s 2020 plans, when the three current starters on the line will be gone.
Chinander said he would add redshirt freshman Casey Rogers to the list. All three have been getting practice reps with the top units.
“We’ve got to kind of figure out at the end of the week who can function the best, who performed the best and who’s ready to play in a game like this,” Chinander said.
Nebraska has held off with Green and Robinson in particular, coaches said, to allow time for more mental progression than physical as they learn the scheme. Coaches would have preferred to play them late in lopsided games, but there haven’t been many. Plus, they wanted to have available backups in case injuries hit a top-heavy line.
“Keem’s going to be ready to go,” Tuioti said. “He’s going to be up and playing for us. We’re going to need as many big bodies as we can, especially with this group that’s coming in that’s going to be big and physical.”
» Nose tackle Darrion Daniels did not practice on Tuesday. He wasn’t in pads.
» The Huskers practiced inside Tuesday instead of heading out into single-digit temperatures.
» Defensive backs coach Travis Fisher just smiled when asked about recruiting in Florida.
“We’ll see,” he said. Fisher half-joked he’d take six defensive backs in the class if he could.