Tommy Armstrong, Nebraska's top returning quarterback, admits that he and the rest of the QBs have suffered through a decent amount of challenging moments this spring. But they're making progress.
Watching film during the off-week proved it. And the practices this week have only reinforced Armstrong's perspective — that there's been a considerable amount of improvement.
Said Armstrong: "Just being able to know my assignments, know where I need to go with the ball, know who I need to read — just being able to put myself in the right situation to make plays."
That could apply to all of the quarterbacks, according to Armstrong.
Offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf echoed that notion, too, telling reporters after Wednesday's practice — the 10th of 15 — that he could tell that the quarterbacks haven't been thinking as much lately. The guys are more confident barking out orders and they seem to conceptually grasp how the plays unfold.
There are a couple areas that need improvement:
1) Putting the ball on target. Armstrong said the Huskers' completion percentage this spring (during all practices) is in the mid-50s. The coaching staff would like to see that rate up over 60 percent. "We need to improve on our accuracy," Armstrong said.
2) Faster decision-making. They could also be more willing to run through their progressions on passing plays — instead of locking in on the No. 1 option, according to Langsdorf. Checkdowns, specifically. More checkdowns! Langsdorf thinks they're too often missing the chance to dump off a pass to the I-back instead of forcing a ball into traffic. Said Langsdorf: "We've got to use the whole play a little bit more than we're using right now."
A few more notes from Wednesday's practice are below...
>> Armstrong, limited with back spasms before spring break, said he's feeling fully healthy now.
>> At one point during Wednesday's practice — with half the team split up on one field and the other half working on the adjacent field — all of the players suddenly converged on each other as a fight appeared to break out. A full team brawl? It wasn't. They were pranking coach Mike Riley. April Fools!
>>Langsdorf said the Husker offense set aside a portion of practice to work specifically on handling blitz packages. He'd like to do more, too. "We need to work on pressure," Langsdorf said, "but that's the same, every team, every year."
>> It appears that junior Terrell Newby has emerged as the top running back. For now. Langsdorf didn't want to say that specifically -- he'd still like to evaluate how they catch the ball and pick up blitzes. But Newby was one of the four guys Langsdorf named when asked about the top rotation. The other players mentioned: senior Imani Cross, sophomore Adam Taylor and junior Graham Nabity.
>> Sophomore De'Mornay Pierson-El will be Nebraska's punt returner. Duh. Said special teams coach Bruce Read: "Hard to beat out 15. I think he's our guy." ... Read did add, though, that junior Jordan Westerkamp and redshirt freshman Glenn Irons were among the players taking reps at that spot as well.
>> At kickoff return, it's Newby taking reps. Also: Irons, redshirt freshman Mikale Wilbon, junior Brandon Reilly, freshman Avery Anderson and freshman Eric Lee. The focus is development, Read said.
>> One of the things that Read was a little concerned about coming in: All of Nebraska's walk-ons. He's used to a roster of 70 or 80. How would he get an honest evaluation of all these guys? That was the question going in. ... Now, though, as it turns out, he's assessed each of them and he's found that he actually has several possible contributors for special teams spots. Some may earn a starting position. Others might just work on the practice squads. But here are a few names to watch: sophomore linebacker Chris Weber, junior linebacker Garrett McKay, sophomore tight end Luke McNitt, sophomore receiver Christian Bailey, junior receiver Lane Hovey, junior fullback Mitch McCann, and junior running back Jordan Nelson.
>> Oakland Raiders wideout James Jones was at practice Wednesday. NU receivers coach Keith Williams was Jones' position coach at San Jose State.