All year round, former Husker and NFL veteran Adam Carriker is taking the pulse of Husker Nation. In the "Carriker Chronicles" video series, he breaks down the latest NU news, upcoming opponents, player updates and recruiting information, and he offers his insight into the X's and O's and more.
On Wednesday's episode, Adam Carriker talks to former Blackshirt Ralph Brown about how the Huskers can improve on defense, how the secondary can get better in 2019, Lamar Jackson's growth as a leader, Nebraska memories and much more.
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Here's a transcript of today's show:
Adam Carriker: Welcome to the Carriker Chronicles, the people's show, where we took the pulse of Husker nation brought to you by Nebraska Spine Hospital. Today I'm joined by a Husker great, a Husker legend: Mr. Ralph Brown, how you doing my friend?
Ralph Brown: I'm great, thanks for having me.
Adam Carriker: I want to thank you for joining me, and there's a lot of excitement, a lot of anticipation for this upcoming football season for the Huskers. So when we talk about the Blackshirts, what's the biggest thing that you think they need to improve on going into this upcoming season?
Ralph Brown: I just think they need to improve upon their pass defense, you know, big plays down the football field, the defensive backs in the back end, they have to improve. They have Lamar Jackson is coming off a pretty good season, ending the season pretty strong. Dicaprio Bootle, he's experienced, they have some guys in that back end that have some experience. They have some veterans now, that I think that if they can shore up that back end and eliminate the big plays I think that'll help them stay in a lot of games that they ended up losing last year. If they can until that think they can get a couple more W's or be at least closer and tighter in some of these games.
Adam Carriker: Now what's the best way for them to improve that pass defense to eliminate those big plays, what's the best way for them to do that?
Ralph Brown: A lot of times just getting out to the quarterback. They can get up to the quarterback a little more, you know, their front seven that defensive line has some pretty good guys on the D-line, linebackers that can move around pretty well. But it's just not giving up the big play, not playing nervous, being confident in your skills as a quarterback and just being tied on a string. It's your safeties with your defensive backs, knowing exactly how to get your spots, knowing situational football. First and second and third down passing plays and just kind of knowing your opponent, that helps you a lot. Knowing situations and those types of receivers you're facing, and that can help the defense. Your opportunities arise down the football field, and the defensive backs just got to make the plays.
Adam Carriker: Now talk to me about a guy like Lamar Jackson, this is a guy that's physically talented. I've always said he has the ability to be not only drafted in the NFL but one of the top rounds, potential draft pick here in the future, and he gets benched last year. Then he comes back and he bounces back. So what is something like that mean to you as a guy who played that same position, because they say as a quarterback and a cornerback, you got to have a short memory. What do you think he can do this year?
Ralph Brown: Well I just think he just keeps drafting off what happened last year about how he finished the season with what high-end confidence and you got to give credit to coach Frost and the coordinators and are sitting him down and talking to him, regaining his confidence, and then just slowly molding him to be a leader, more vocal, and be more accountable with his position on the outside with making plays. That confidence, when you hear him in the offseason how he answers questions, you know, the type of leader he has become, he just needs to draft off that and then start the season off strong, start the season off with some great guts, not giving up a lot of plays on the outside and you can carry that through the season and he can continue to do that he should have a stellar senior season, and he can possibly go in a high round because he has all the intangibles. He can call, he can run, but his confidence goes up and down throughout the season. If he can just stay with his confidence, I think he'll have a tremendous year.
Adam Carriker: You mentioned Erik Chinander in there. Have you had a chance to meet coach Chinander, and what are your impressions of him?
Ralph Brown: I haven't had a chance to meet with him but I've read a lot of articles, I've heard him speak you know on TV, heard a lot of folks from the newspaper, and he's a guy that a lot of people accountable. He loves to have fun but he has high standards, and this season this year, going off of their last four to five games, how they played on that stretch run, this defense has high standards. Everybody is buying in and this should be a year that they all play together, they all play on a string, give 100% on every play, rolling into another year under the coach. I think everybody should be comfortable, they should have a decent year on defense.
Adam Carriker: Now we've talked about Lamar Jackson, DiCaprio Bootle, Is there a DB, safety, corner, someone on that back end that you think could surprise Husker fans this year?
Ralph Brown: Yeah we have a few guys on the back end but you know, I think Bootle's one of the guys I really like with his confidence, he's kind of bin a little bit underrated. I think if he keep making those big steps and keep balling like he had last year I think he can make some big strides. He's one of those guys that I like, he's scrappy. From my opinion, I expect him to have a good season.
Adam Carriker: Yeah, it was interesting. I thought he quietly was one of the best cornerbacks in the Big Ten last year. I couldn't help but wonder if our record wasn't 4-8, if he might have got some more publicity> But I wanted to talk to you a little bit about your playing days, your days at Nebraska as well. Now you were a freshman, you were a pup that senior season, the National Championship season. So talk to me about some of the things that help, because you got a young secondary that year. But talk to me about some of the things that helped make that '97 defense so great and some of the things that Nebraska needs to work towards as they work towards winning championships once again, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Ralph Brown: Well, we just had guys on the back end and we had a defense that had very high standards, coach McBride had standards in practice and he said: "You know what, whatever his standards are, we're going to raise it up a little bit more." It's not giving up one big play or ten big plays in practice, we said you know what, we're not going to give up any big plays. The front seven was accountable with not allowing one to two yards, we try to shut them down to zero yards per rush during practice. That standard carried over throughout the week and it carried over into the games on Saturdays. But in the secondary, we have some young guys, but you look at all the guys that secondary: myself, Erwin Swiney, Eric Warfield, Mike Brown, Clint Finley. All those guys went to the NFL, so you just had a lot of young raw players who bought into the system. Coach Johnson did a great job of grooming us and putting us in situations that made us feel comfortable that we're ready for it on Saturday, and everybody just balls out. We're all angry about losing the Big 12 championship the season prior against Texas. You know, we beat Virginia Tech in the bowl game, but everyone was hungry and angry about losing that Big 12 championship against Texas. So we carried that fuel into the '97 season, every level especially in the back end with young guys, to try and win a championship.
Adam Carriker: Yeah, well you guys were young in the back end, but you had so much talent back there like you mentioned, all those names that basically all went to the NFL. But I'm curious, so we see Scott Frost now, we see him at the podium after games, he's talking to the media and things of that nature. But it's interesting, because in '96, you know, there was some multiple tumultuous times up and down, even the beginning in '97 was a little bit interesting for him. What was he like during those times and as the '97 season wore along? That Washington game happened, he clearly became the guy on offense. What was he like in the locker room and as a leader on the team?
Ralph Brown: Well, Scott comes from a family of leaders, he grew up around leaders with his mom and dad. He was around at Stanford, around Walsh and all those guys but he was just someone who was very enduring, somebody knew how to handle pressure. If he made mistakes or had some tough games where he'd turn the ball over or didn't play so well, he's the type of guy that knew how to flush those mistakes and flush those games away, and then just basically focus on the next game and do better and improve himself. He's always been someone who had high standards and always trying to improve, and that '97 year he put our team on his back with the offensive line, with the running back that we had and wide receivers, he put that offense on his back; he was determined to be successful quarterback, was determined to carry the team, and follow the footsteps of Tommie Frazier, Brook Berringer, all those guys that came right before him, and he did that. During that season, he stood up to every task. Scott's throw over the top of the game against Peyton Manning was a great finish.
Adam Carriker: Yeah, it was interesting, once that Washington game happened, man he went on to have one of the better seasons a quarterback's had in the history in Nebraska. That took a lot of mental toughness on his part. But you brought up Peyton Manning, you brought up playing against Tennessee, and outside of the Seahawks and the Super Bowl, the Blackshirts beat up Peyton Manning probably about as bad as anybody I've ever seen. What was the key to get getting after the great Peyton Manning in that Orange Bowl game, and basically shutting down a really good, really fast Tennessee offense?
Ralph Brown: Our main keys during the bowl season basically prepping for that game was to get after the quarterback. Keep the pocket cramped, keep the pocket ruffled, don't allow Peyton Manning to have any time to go through the progressions and throw the football down the field and that's what we did. Our defensive line: Grant Wistrom, Jason Peter, Mike Rucker, all the guys that are basically Hall of Famers now at the Nebraska and went on to the NFL and played well. We had fast linebackers that can run in Jamel Williams and some other guys. But that front seven, their whole determination, whole focus was to get after Peyton Manning, make sure we hit him almost on every play and he felt the effects of that. Basically in that first half we wore him out and he basically really didn't want to be on the field anymore just because the constant pressure that he endured throughout that game. That pressure worked, McBride came in with a great game plan, we executed it and we played it well.
Adam Carriker: Now, if you've watched my show over time, I talked a lot about getting after the quarterback this year. You find folks at home and need to find an outside linebacker to get after the quarterback. You have a DB right here, possibly the greatest DB ever at Nebraska talking about getting after the quarterback. Now let me be clear, when there's a big play given up on the defensive side of the ball that's the defensive back's fault. But when when the defense is having success is the D-line's fault, right? Am I right with that, Ralph?
Ralph Brown: Well when the defense is down, it's always us. That's true throughout history, and I don't care what level it is, it can be high school level! The thing is, they always say that the greatest pass defense is the pass rush and I give credit to the defensive lineman and front seven, because when the front seven is playing well usually it is true, the defense does a great job.
Adam Carriker: I want to thank you for joining me, I appreciate your time and you're always welcome on the show my friend.
Ralph Brown: Thanks a lot, brother.
Adam Carriker: Alright, until next time Husker nation, go big red and always remember...
Ralph Brown: to throw the bones!
Thanks again to the Nebraska Spine Hospital. Ladies and gentlemen, when it’s your spine, you do not want to mess around. Experience matters. That’s why you can trust the experts at Nebraska Spine Hospital, the region's only spine specific hospital. They are the best at what they do.
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