Mickey Joseph scanned his eyes around, looking for a leader to rally the wideouts.
Nebraska’s receivers coach wanted someone to say something — anything — after the Husker wideouts “got our butts whooped” and “took it on the chin” from the defensive backs during Monday’s practice.
But in searching for “that alpha,” Joseph only found himself.
“Nobody stepped up and said anything,” Joseph said. “That’s my problem with them right now is that when things are going bad, somebody’s gotta just call the group in and say, ‘OK, hey, let’s settle down and get it going,’ because I’m not going to be out there with them.”
Of the 16 receivers in camp, only two of them are seniors with playing experience at Nebraska: Omar Manning and Oliver Martin.
Most of the other upperclassmen are incoming transfers, like Trey Palmer out of LSU, Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda (New Mexico State) and Marcus Washington (Texas).
Joseph offered to leave the room in an attempt to inspire a players-only meeting for them to hash things out.
“I’d rather them do it,” Joseph said. “They’re gonna learn. They know what to expect. But they know one thing: I’m gonna be hard on them. I’m not gonna look away and act like I don’t see it.”
The tough-love, say-it-like-it-is mentality from Joseph comes from his desire to help his players achieve their sky-high expectations.
Considering Joseph has coached NFL stars like Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson, Nebraska’s players understand where the former Husker quarterback is coming from.
“I rule with an iron fist, and they understand that and I think they accept that,” Joseph said. “I’m never going to be soft on them. I’m never going to cater to them. I’m never going to cater to them. I’m never going to tell them what they want to hear. I’m always going to tell them the truth, but I’m going to demand that they play with excellence. That’s how you win.”
Joseph isn’t just looking for a leader in the room. He’s looking for the cream to rise to the top, too.
Joseph said Nebraska will play with a rotation of six receivers in 2022.
To crack the rotation, Joseph says the ones who can balance playmaking and consistency will get the edge.
“You can be consistent, but you’re not making plays? I look at all of that,” Joseph said.
That position battle will continue into the week ahead of the Northwestern game, Joseph said.
As a whole, Joseph said the “group’s been pretty solid,” outside of Monday’s practice.
Specifically, though, Joseph name-dropped Manning first, saying “he’s really playing at a high level.”
He then mentioned Palmer, saying “I’m really happy where Trey’s at” and then said the same regarding Martin. The fourth receiver Joseph mentioned was Washington, saying that he’s “really doing a really good job.”
The fifth player mentioned was Garcia-Castaneda, who is coming in a tad behind everyone else due to the injury that held him out in the spring.
“He’s getting better every day,” Joseph said. “Like, I gotta be patient with Isaiah first of all because he didn’t go through spring. The last time he really played football was what, November, December? So I gotta be patient with him, but so far, he’s been coming along. He shows flashes. Now we just gotta get him back in routine, get him back playing football again.”
Whether it’s finding that leader or finding the top six to play on game day, Joseph believes those strides will be made soon.
In fact, he’s confident in that.
“Tomorrow, they’re going to come back and be ready to go,” Joseph said. “One thing about this group, once I challenge them, they always come back.”
Tackling was sound among the top unit, defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said of Saturday's scrimmage. The unit missed on a few chances to strip out the football but also had multiple interceptions.