LINCOLN — As the majority of Nebraska players left practice for the locker room last Wednesday, a few inexperienced backups in the secondary stayed on the field with their position coach to talk through play calls.
Assistant Terry Joseph barked out advice. Sophomores Charles Jackson and Daniel Davie and freshman D.J. Singleton were among the players who lined up in their assigned spots, gesturing and shouting like they might on a frenetic game day — no matter that there were only a couple dozen people left on the Hawks indoor field.
It was a common sight this spring. And it’s the kind of commitment coach Bo Pelini is asking of his players — and apparently is seeing.
“You can want to have success as a football player, but you’ve got to want to do the things that get you what you want,” Pelini said Saturday. “That’s the most important thing. Our guys are understanding that.”
He spoke quite highly of his team Saturday afternoon, spending 12 minutes with reporters to discuss a 100-play scrimmage that capped a productive and encouraging week of practice.
It was just three weeks earlier that Pelini had called out his group for a lack of mental toughness.
But Saturday was different. After a week without major setbacks or letdowns, Pelini said the Huskers “flew around” for about two hours inside Memorial Stadium. High energy. Lots of effort and intensity.
“There was a lot of enthusiasm and passion out there on the field,” Pelini said. “It was fun to watch.”
The Huskers had plenty of work Saturday on special teams, an area where Pelini may use more starters this season. The Huskers conducted live kickoff drills, and field goal kicker Mauro Bondi “had a very good day,” Pelini said.
The defense, not yet deep into its playbook, continued to emphasize the foundational elements in the scheme as it attempts to build depth.
The offense worked without starting quarterback Taylor Martinez, instead relying on redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong, senior Ron Kellogg and redshirt freshman Ryker Fyfe.
Pelini liked what he saw from both sides of the ball.
“I think they’re growing up,” he said. “I see a sense of urgency on them, a maturation process of this football team. (With) certain guys, the light’s starting to come on.”
The Huskers have two more on-field workouts before next Saturday’s Red-White spring game. Summer conditioning begins soon after that.
Pelini likes the path his players are on, but there’s more to do.
“We’re not where we need to be yet. We’re not even close. But you shouldn’t be at this point,” he said. “We’re moving in the right direction.”
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