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Nebraska's football team had an open practice Saturday afternoon for fans and the media. Sights and sounds from the event:
SEEN: Nebraska rotating four guards through its top offensive line. Matt Sichterman and Brant Banks were working right guard while Ethan Piper and Broc Bando worked the left guard spot. It’s clear that Nebraska hasn’t made final decisions at either spot. Offensive line coach Greg Austin worked with Piper on his pass blocking footwork.
SEEN: Nebraska coach Scott Frost correcting receiver Oliver Martin on the proper way to motion into the backfield.
SEEN: Lane disciple drills for special teams coverage units in which Husker players had to run as quickly as possible through paths made by blue garbage cans without knocking over the cans.
SEEN: A strong top-to-bottom performance from quarterback Adrian Martinez, who looked sharp in drill work, 7-on-7 and in the scrimmage. Martinez is firing the ball with more pace and consistency on deep shots.
SEEN: Logan Smothers looked a little locked up in drills but he loosened up in throwing and 7-on-7 sessions. Smothers reads a defense capably and directs traffic well. Getting the ball there, especially on shorter routes, is a question. Heinrich Haarberg is a natural passer with far more height to look over defenses. It’s clear coaches want him to get up to speed, quickly, because he had an entire run period, full of backups, to himself while the top quarterbacks worked the other run group. Haarberg has a wild colt quality to him. A lot of wild throws Saturday. But the potential is intriguing, especially when he drops in a pretty deep ball to Levi Falck late in practice.
SEEN: All of Nebraska’s punters struggling to some degree to down punts inside the 20. Returning starter William Przystup had the best one, around the 5.
SEEN: Cam Taylor-Britt with an excellent day in coverage — including an interception on a go route against Levi Falck — and a role as NU’s top kickoff returner, as Alante Brown is injured. Will Nixon was also returning kickoffs.
SEEN: Nebraska still looking for that next lockdown corner. Quinton Newsome, Braxton Clark and Nadab Joseph remain in competition — Newsome is working with the 1s — but each had their ups and downs Saturday.
SEEN: Pheldarius Payne bringing some pain on a few pass rushes against the No. 2 offensive line.
SEEN: Bryce Benhart pancaking Damion Daniels on the first rep of the Husker drill.
SEEN: Several Husker players not practicing, including running backs Gabe Ervin, Sevion Morrison and Rahmir Johnson, defensive starters JoJo Domann and Ben Stille, tight end Chris Hickman, defensive end Tate Wildeman, receivers Brody Belt and Alante Brown, kicker Connor Culp and defensive backs Tamon Lynum Marques Buford.
HEARD: Old-school music from Earth, Wind and Fire and Michael Jackson, among others, during the practice. It was the a switch-up from the music NU often plays, be it current rap or current country.
SEEN: Nebraska's top defensive unit consistent of defensive tackles Deontre Thomas, Damion Daniels and Ty Robinson, outside linebackers Garrett Nelson and Caleb Tannor, cornerbacks Cam Taylor-Britt and Quinton Newsome and safeties Marquel Dismuke and Deontai Williams. NU rotated three top inside 'backers — Luke Reimer, Chris Kolarevic and Nick Henrich — as Will Honas was limited. At Domann's nickel spot, Javin Wright and Issac Gifford appear to be the Nos. 2 and 3.
SEEN: Running back Markese Stepp — who Frost announced is out for the spring due to injury — was wheeling his way around practice with his left foot on a scooter and had a football in the basket at one point.
SEEN: Running backs Gabe Ervin Jr. and Sevion Morrison didn’t practice on Saturday but did do some running warmups at the beginning of practice.
SEEN: Running back Marvin Scott III took the first-team reps and shot through gaps quickly and timed them well. Ronald Thompkins also took a lot of reps with the running backs room banged up.
HEARD: Offensive line coach Greg Austin yelled “as quick and explosive” at his linemen while they were lining up to shove the sled. A grad assistant followed closely with freshman Jimmy Fritzsche and yelled out “Good job, Jimmy!” or “Nice Jimmy!” a few times.
SEEN: Wide Receiver Zavier Betts is a big fan of the song P.Y.T. by Michael Jackson and was dancing his way through downtime during a drill.
SEEN: Safety Javin Wright stretching out to high point a ball and pick it off over a receiver. Wright received some coaching from Cam Taylor-Britt later in a 7 on 7 drill on how to wrap his arm around the running back.
SEEN: Defensive backs coach Travis Fisher dancing to For The Love of Money by The O’Jays while doing the “Make it Rain” hand motion.
SEEN: Henrich Haarberg slinging a 50-yard pass to Levi Falck who was made an easy catch while being defended by cornerback Nadab Joseph.
SEEN: Fans began to file into the West Stadium stands around 1:40 p.m. as the green-jerseyed Nebraska quarterbacks finished up a series of short passing drills. A pair of young girls started a “Go Big Red!” chant and got a response from the crowd before the team’s musical playlist began over the P.A. system.
SEEN: Three kickers cycled through kickoff drills early in the practice. With returning Big Ten Kicker of the Year Connor Culp sitting out, freshman Tyler Crawford was the first to boot a ball toward the end zone. Sophomore Chase Contreraz and redshirt freshman Gabe Heins. Contreraz was the most consistent in the period, sending a few balls to the goal line or a couple yards into the end zone.
SEEN: The ability was clearly evident for junior receiver Omar Manning. He is every bit of his listed 6-foot-4, 225 pounds and has a size and thickness about him that the Huskers haven’t had at that position in years. Manning flashed his considerable catch radius by stabbing a ball in front of him on a crossing route. He also gained separation from 6-4, 210 pound corner Braxton Clark multiple times in one-on-one situations down the sideline and snatched a pass over the middle in front of returning All-Big Ten defensive back Cam Taylor-Britt. His return to health after last fall’s struggle to get on the field is one of the most notable developments of the spring.
HEARD: The one-on-one drills between receivers and corners drew some of the louder crowd reaction. Clark knocked a ball away from Zavier Betts on one. Oliver Martin thrived in his chances, beating corner Quinton Newsome on a deep ball to his inside shoulder. The wideout got ahead of the same defender later on a slant.
SEEN: Redshirt freshman walk-on receiver Austin Jablonski made the most of his chances, connecting with quarterback Heinrich Haarberg more than once in 7-on-7 drills.
HEARD: Perhaps the loudest roar of the day came later in the 7-on-7 competition when redshirt freshman Javin Wright made a one-handed interception of a Logan Smothers pass. Wright later lined up as a nickelback in a live setting.
SEEN: With a slew of NU running backs not fully suited, plenty of practice reps fell to Marvin Scott, Ronald Thompkins and Jaquez Yant.
SEEN: Junior inside linebacker Chris Kolarevic tipped a pass over the middle during a 7-on-7 play and nearly intercepted the ball before it dropped to the turf. The Northern Iowa transfer was less spectacular in coverage as NU receivers got past him down the sideline for catches more than once.
SEEN: Punter Daniel Cerni sent multiple balls 45-50 yards on the fly during another period of special teams work. Last year’s punter, William Przystup, and redshirt freshman Grant Detlefsen also rotated through. The Australia native Cerni, a rare scholarship punter, missed last season with a leg injury but appeared to operate without hindrance Saturday.
SEEN: Taylor-Britt, Cooper Jewett and Oliver Martin were among those handling kickoff returns. Last year’s main returner, receiver Alante Brown, didn’t participate in practice.
SEEN: Haarberg found touted freshman tight end Thomas Fidone a couple times on quick passes to the delight of the crowd.
SEEN: Receiver transfer Samori Touré also caught multiple short passes. Meanwhile, Levi Falck ran under a Haarberg pass in a live setting with cornerback Nadab Joseph trailing behind for a big play into the wind.