Tony White considers himself fully entrenched at Nebraska. He has proof in his wallet.
The defensive coordinator has long held a California driver’s license as a former UCLA linebacker who later coached at San Diego State for nearly a decade. He kept it through stops at Arizona State (2018-19) and Syracuse (2020-22).
After three months on the job in Lincoln, he’s already the owner of a new Nebraska card.
“We blitz from Play 1 so we’re going to do this thing right,” White said on the Husker Radio Network on Monday. “… I’m here. I’m done. Let’s go.”
It’s been an enlightening start to the offseason for the 43-year-old getting to know players through winter meals and conversations. He’s watched Husker games from last season and saw players with good “movement skills,” size and length. He’s seen recent physical gains from them through conditioning.
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“Now you turn to the next phase of it all,” White said. “Get them in pads and see if that translates over.”
White has a sense of defensive leaders, naming Florida transfer linebacker Chief Borders along with NU veteran ‘backers Nick Henrich and Luke Reimer. Nickelback Isaac Gifford too. And nickel John Bullock — a walk-on from Creighton Prep — who flashed his explosive athleticism with basketball dunks during the team’s competitive “commitment week.”
The onset of spring practices next week will represent a “new slate,” White said. NU coaches will turn players loose and start making firsthand football evaluations on everything from early pecking orders to potential position shifts. It will play out across 15 practices in a month as the Huskers receive as much scheme install as they can handle.
“You want to get stuff on film,” White said. “You want to see them in those positions to make plays. You want to see how their natural instincts take over. You want to throw as much at them as you can now and then taper back versus not having enough and trying to put it in in the fall.”
White did a double take when informed NU has already sold roughly 45,000 spring-game tickets for the April 22 exhibition. “That’s more than a lot of Pac-12 games in the fall,” he said.
White is the one teaching his 3-3-5 scheme to the defensive staff but said it’s been a collaborative effort as coaches continue to align on terminology and instruction points. He continues to learn as much or more from coach Matt Rhule as he’s teaching — “He’s the program builder; he’s a guru at what he does,” White said.
The best word to sum up his experience at Nebraska so far is “process,” White said. Soaking in what makes young men successful as players and professionals. Knowing the results will come because the daily work is being done and done well.
“When the process is right, you don’t need to talk about winning,” White said. “That comes with the process. (Rhule) is building a football program here. That’s what we’re here to do. Seeing how he goes about it day by day is truly amazing.”