Husker notes: Offensive line rounding into form; Scrimmage favors Nebraska offense

"I don't want to get this notion that the offensive line is out there blowing guys off the ball," assistant Greg Austin said, "because we have a lot of things that we have yet to still work on."

LINCOLN — Greg Austin bristled at the question. Was Nebraska’s offensive line dominating defenders during Sunday’s scrimmage?

The group controlled the line of scrimmage at times, the offensive line coach said. But anything beyond that isn’t accurate for a unit that’s still refining technique and fleshing out roles.

“I don’t want to get this notion that the offensive line is out there blowing guys off the ball,” Austin said, “because we have a lot of things that we have yet to still work on.”

Austin said that when fundamentals on the line are sound, good results have followed.

But the opposite is also true. What the scrimmage allowed, he said, was for 6-yard gains to turn into 15 because tackles weren’t assumed, and linemen could extend plays.

The coach added that technique has improved markedly in the past 18 months. He brought out the grades from Sunday’s scrimmage and compared them to the 2018 spring game. It wasn’t even close.

“You can see the difference in numbers in terms of the percentages, and you can also see it on the field as well,” Austin said. “They’re getting better. And as they get better, the offense gets better.”

Sunday scrimmage favors offense

It’s been common knowledge that, for the majority of spring camp and training camp, Nebraska’s defense has flexed its muscles over the offense. That’s often common, too, since no defense knows the Husker offense like the Husker defense.

But Sunday’s scrimmage was different. And quarterback Adrian Martinez, who led several scoring drives with the No. 1 unit, was excited about it.

“The offense had a really good day,” Martinez said. “Really competitive. Happy to get out there and see some live action for some of the guys. I think it was a good showing.

“The aggression that the offense came out with — we were ready to go from the jump.”

Offensive coordinator and receivers coach Troy Walters said the offense scored on its first three drives before the defense shut out the offense on the next three drives.

“It’s a win-win-win,” Walters said.

Martinez said the team is more comfortable its second year in the offense, and the wide receiver room can take more of a “committee” approach rather than Martinez having to rely so much on two receivers, as he did last season with Stanley Morgan and JD Spielman.

One of them, Walters said, could be sophomore Jaevon McQuitty, a top recruit in the 2017 class who played sparingly last season.

“He made some plays; he keeps progressing,” Walters said. “Very pleased with his play ... he understands the offense. The biggest thing is he’s confident.”

The receiver room in general, Walters said, has taken a big jump in 2019.

“I think we’re going to be a pretty good unit,” Walters said. “ A lot of guys have not played a whole lot. I’m putting them in pressure situations during practice so that, when the game comes around, they’re ready to go. And they’re going against our defense and our secondary, day in and day in, and that makes those guys better.

“Iron sharpens iron, and those guys are making young guys better.” 

The Nebraska drill — in which a ball carrier has three blockers and has to navigate three defenders, was “competitive,” Walters said.

“We put it at the front so it starts the tempo,” Walters said.

Sign of a good team

The sign of a good team, coach Scott Frost has said, is when the players coach themselves.

That’s happening with the quarterbacks already, walk-on Andrew Bunch said.

“I don’t even think the coaches are having to really coach us that much,” said Bunch, likely third or fourth string in camp. “Guys are picking up each other, correcting each other, and it’s taken a lot off their shoulders.”

He’s seen good things from the entire quarterbacks room, including true freshman Luke McCaffrey. He called the quarterback from Colorado creative.

Personally, Bunch is working on the timing of his throws and setting up protections better.

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Quick hits

» Tight ends coach Sean Beckton said weightlifting has paid off “across the board” for his position group in the offseason. He specifically mentioned true freshman Chris Hickman’s growth from spring to fall and Austin Allen beefing up to 255 pounds (coaches want him at 265).

“That’s one of the things we’re emphasizing throughout this training camp (is) a little bit more grit and fight as a team,” Beckton said. “I think so far they’ve stepped up and done that.”

» Running backs coach Ryan Held said true freshman running back Ronald Thompkins ran his first play in a walk-through Wednesday since his major knee injury almost exactly a year ago.

“He’s got a smile on his face, ear to ear,” Held said.

Chris Heady covers Husker football and is the Nebraska men's basketball beat writer. He started at The World-Herald in 2017. Follow him on Twitter @heady_chris. Email:

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