LINCOLN — As Nebraska passes the halfway point of spring workouts, coaches made clear Wednesday that specific groups of players are benefiting the most.
The young and inexperienced.
Whether that’s the swath of early enrollees from the 2021 class, recent newcomers or second-year players, offensive coordinator Matt Lubick and defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said all are stacking invaluable practice reps that the pandemic stole last year.
“Right now I feel like we’ve got the right guys on the bus,” Chinander said. “Now it’s just figuring out what seat they need to get in.”
He said one example is outside linebacker Pheldarius Payne, who arrived from junior college last year and didn’t have the chance to fully prepare his body and mind for the abbreviated fall season.
Chinander named others at that position in similar spots, like 2020 signees Blaise Gunnerson and Jimari Butler. And they aren't the only ones.
Lubick put most of his receivers in the same camp after they arrived roughly a year ago.
Oliver Martin, a transfer who wasn’t made eligible by the NCAA until midseason. Omar Manning, who fought health issues all year. And numerous other young players like Alante Brown, Zavier Betts and Will Nixon. Levi Falck, too.
“There was a lot of thinking,” Lubick said. “Now those guys in particular are a lot more confident because they understand the offense and they’re playing faster and have made plays.”
The Blackshirts, meanwhile, are using spring practices to build depth behind the cluster of veterans.
No one is exempt from the grind — “we won three games last year so everybody needs reps,” Chinander said — but the seniors have no problem taking some snaps with the second unit as coaches experiment with how different defenders work together.
And fans will also get to see the progress firsthand. The Huskers will host 4,000 Saturday at Memorial Stadium for an open practice.
Other quick hits from Wednesday's interviews:
» Defensive backs Quinton Newsome and Myles Farmer both said competition remains intense at corner and safety. Among others pushing incumbent safeties Marquel Dismuke and Deontai Williams are Noa Pola-Gates, Isaac Gifford, Ashton Hausmann and Tyson Guzman.
» Receiver Wyatt Liewer said Martin — a former four-star recruit and player at Michigan and Iowa — hasn’t lost a one-on-one drill this season. He continues to impress coaches too.
» Lubick said quarterback Adrian Martinez has taken his play to “another level,” especially with his accuracy and leadership. He’s making tight ends and receivers look good, Lubick said.
» Manning continues to build confidence as he stacks playing time, Lubick said.
» Freshman running back Gabe Ervin has been “a pleasant surprise” of spring, Lubick said. Beyond his talent, the early enrollee has known his assignments and shown a maturity to play through mistakes.
» Senior outside linebacker JoJo Domann has been limited this spring with injury, Chinander said, but he is trending toward full health leading up to the May 1 spring game.