LINCOLN — Nebraska linebacker Marcus Newby got a taste of success last season, starting six games and playing some of his best football as the Husker defense began figuring things out.
So it was on to the next step: Getting faster.
The junior from North Potomac, Maryland, said he’s operating at 228 pounds, dropping about 10 since spring practice to better stick with tight ends and backs in pass coverage and run down ballcarriers.
And maybe just to feel a little different, too.
“You can tell,” he said. “I just didn’t feel too good in the spring and last fall camp.
“That was my big goal this offseason, to come out and work hard — and just run, do extra stuff in the weight room, do extra stuff on the field — so I can be lighter on my feet and quicker.”
Assistant Trent Bray has seen it through the start of fall camp, and Newby falls in line with Bray and a defensive staff seeking a different physical makeup for its linebackers.
“For Marcus, he felt, we felt, that around 230 for him he’s explosive, he can run,” Bray said. “You just watch him move, and it’s night and day from last year, and so it’s really helped him.”
Newby missed two of the first three
games last season because of hamstring trouble, then was pressed into duty at outside linebacker after Michael Rose-Ivey suffered a groin injury.
Newby would go on to make 34 tackles, including a combined 13 in the back-to-back late-season wins over Michigan State and Rutgers.
The physical part always came easy, but Newby wanted to be faster in coverage and smoother in his technique. That would make him harder to take out of games.
“Basically, the more you can do on the field, the more you can play,” he said. “That’s my big emphasis, just being consistent every single day — just working on my technique, working on my run fit, working on my pass coverage. Just basically keep on grinding, keep on competing, keep on learning every day.”
Increasing his activity was the first part of lowering his weight, but that would take him only so far.
“The biggest thing is nutrition,” he said. “Make sure you’re eating the right things. Don’t stay up all night and eat bad things. Don’t stay up until 12 o’clock and eat snacks all night. That was my biggest goal, to try to eat lean meat and try to eat at a certain time. I stuck with it throughout the summer.”
Now he hopes to stick with those competing for playing time.
Newby and Dedrick Young started camp vying for one outside linebacker spot, and Newby moved over to the other Thursday with Rose-Ivey sitting out. Newby said the outside linebackers already rotate sides, and the responsibilities are much the same.
Along with changing his physique, Newby has matured and “evolved,” defensive coordinator Mark Banker said.
“The mistakes are being minimized,” Banker said. “He understands the game a lot better. Maybe it’s the simplicity of what we’re doing, as far as how we try to stack principles and concepts on one another, but he’s worked hard to get himself in the position (he’s in) right now as a linebacker.”
During winter evaluations, Bray said, Newby and Young were linebackers they thought could be lighter because of what they are asked to do in coverage. Bray said they also wanted middle linebacker Josh Banderas a little leaner.
“Especially when we first got here, just a lot of guys were carrying too much weight,” Bray said. “College football today, it’s not about necessarily size. It’s about being able to move in space and run. And then it’s, ‘How much (weight) can I carry and still be able to do that?’ That’s your maximum weight.”
Newby had help from the Husker strength and nutrition staffs, but he knew it was his job to work on his body and sharpen his mind with an uptick in film and playbook study.
“It’s all about yourself,” Newby said. “So, self-motivated, that’s what I had to do, and that’s what I did.
“To be honest, it was just a click. I have the capability to play, with my athletic ability and my physicality. It was just like, you know what, I had to change the way I was doing things.”
Contact the writer: