Nebraska's new fast-paced practice format has Huskers catching their breath

There's no time for hands on hips in Nebraska's high-octane practice schedule.

LINCOLN — Lamar Jackson and Stanley Morgan were among players still huffing when they spoke to the media after their second Scott Frost-style practice.

Who has time to catch their breath when the “live bullets” — Jackson’s description for the flurry of plays Nebraska runs in a short time — are flying? There’s a time for teaching and correction, but not during an offensive hyper drive, when repetitions come in bursts fast enough to induce a sort of football tunnel vision.

“Everyone’s flying around,” sophomore wide receiver JD Spielman said. “You’re running play after play after play. There’s no rest time in between the plays or anything. That’s basically the biggest difference between both practices (now and in past years).”

It’s a new format for the program, too, at least in recent history. Bill Callahan’s NFL-style installations were regimented and built upon one another like classroom lessons, which was trouble for anyone who fell behind. Bo Pelini fancied a quicker pace, but left room for discussions between snaps to slow the learning process. Mike Riley’s measured tempo included split units and lots of huddles, which made for long practices.

Under Frost, Nebraska has two 10-minute walk-through sessions built into practice when assistants offer guidance to players. There also are film sessions and walk-throughs before workouts.

Other than that, it’s full speed ahead as Frost and Co. work to condense 130 to 140 total repetitions into each practice as they mold a 4-8 squad from last year into something sleeker.

“I’d say the pace is probably completely different than we’re used to just because it’s fast all practice,” senior linebacker Dedrick Young said. “Not just slowing down, then going fast. So I think it’s completely different than last year.”

Morgan, NU’s record-breaking wideout who eschewed the NFL to return for his senior season, said he also likes the morning setting as opposed to workouts later in the day because of the extra recovery time. Spielman said he arrived at Memorial Stadium at 5:20 a.m. Tuesday after breakfast and ankle taping, then was on the field by 7:10. Players were on the field at 5:25 a.m. for the first practice March 16, he said.

Combine the early starts with running maybe half a dozen new plays in rapid-fire succession, and Morgan agrees this spring is not for the timid or unmotivated.

“It’s a little tough,” Spielman said, “but I’m up for challenges.”

Frost said the practice setup doesn’t mean he expects perfection. Far from it.

Frost cited snapping errors at center and a generally sloppier effort Tuesday than their spring debut. He also acknowledged it’s too soon to identify many standouts this early in the process.

But the frenetic pace will allow coaches to evaluate players in the near future — and it already has. Frost pointed to running back and junior college transfer Greg Bell on Tuesday as an example of someone adjusting well to what the coaches ask.

“Mistakes will happen,” Frost said. “We’ll coach these guys through that and, like I said, hopefully Thursday looks better than (Tuesday).”

After two workouts, Jackson said he’s happy to have added eight pounds of muscle and lost two percent of his body fat. If he’s going to achieve his goals — “hits and picks,” he said — then step No. 1 is staying on the field as the spring sprint continues.

“They going fast,” the defensive back said. “We gonna be tired. We gonna be working. We gonna be competing. Being tired ain’t an excuse, so we ain’t got no choice.

“We gonna have to get up there and line up fast and read and react. So that’s the biggest difference is just the tempo.”

Evan Bland covers Nebraska football, baseball and other sports for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @EvanBlandOWH.

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