LINCOLN — A smile crept across Carlos Davis’ face.
The rumors are true, he said. Winter workouts under new strength coach Zach Duval were as hard as everyone’s heard. Maybe even harder.
“You guys will only know that if you were there, but we grew a lot as a team and we got stronger,” Davis told the media Wednesday. “We definitely lost body fat and gained muscle. It was probably the best offseason I’ve had.”
Over the past two months Scott Frost and his assistants have made it clear the strength program they took over in December was in disarray. At a February speech in Holdrege, Nebraska, tight ends coach Sean Beckton said the offensive line in particular was skilled enough, but too weak to do what they were being asked.
“We have got a lot of work to do,” Frost said after signing day in February. “We have got a lot of work to do in the weight room.”
When Duval took over there was a sense among players the workouts would be tougher than last year, especially after a 52-day layoff following the loss to Iowa.
“Day one was very intense,” senior Mick Stoltenberg said. “Obviously there were a lot of guys throwing up and stuff like that. It was kind of a crazy experience.”
The second week of workouts, wide receiver Tyjon Lindsey and offensive lineman Dylan Owen were admitted to the hospital with rhabdomyolysis, which results from dead muscle fibers leaking into the bloodstream. Rhabdo, as it is commonly known, can cause serious kidney problems and includes muscle pain, an inability to move arms and legs, dark red or brown urine, and in some cases, kidney failure. Lindsey was in the hospital for three days. Owen, who is no longer with the program, was in for two.
On Wednesday Frost again took responsibility for those hospitalizations and said Lindsey already seems healthy and quick during workouts.
The lifting portion of Nebraska’s workouts changed a bit after those hospitalizations, Frost said. But he still saw significant results. As did his players.
“Everybody’s been lifting really heavy. Like heavier than I ever thought,” said senior Freedom Akinmoladun. “I’ve lifted more weight than I probably have ever imagined.”
Players available to the media Wednesday all said they liked Duval’s approach to weight training. Before lifts, Duval broke down each workout and how it would directly affect their game. Duval also curated specific workouts for each position group. So instead of a uniform workout regimen, each group focused on a handful of lifts designed to maximize their fit in Frost’s new up-tempo pace.
Workouts began at 6 a.m. when the offensive and defensive lines rolled in. Their emphasis was squats with the weight on the back, as opposed to front-squats like last year.
For linebackers it was lateral movement and explosiveness. That group did more jumping in the offseason than ever before, junior linebacker Mohamad Barry said.
“I love working hard, and Duval gave us all of the workouts that pushed us to the edge,” Barry said. “To really just push people to the point of almost breaking. That’s what I liked about it. Just seeing people be pushed to that point, it’s exciting. It’s a nice feeling when you love football and you love everything about football and lifting. It’s hard but I enjoy it.”
Barry said it was rough getting up at 6 a.m. for workouts, but now he just needs to become a morning person. And the idea of hard workouts was a good sign for things to come.
Leaders emerged from the weight room, a somewhat unintended advantage of the tough workouts. When spring practice kicks off on Friday, senior lineman Jerald Foster thinks the team will be ready thanks to the grueling offseason.
“This offseason has been challenging,” Foster said. “There have been times when we need to push ourselves to be better, but I’ve enjoyed it. We’ve been bringing the positivity, the aggression to these workouts. Yes, they have been tough, but that is what our strength staff is there for. They’re there to push us, they’re there to get us ready to play.”
Scott Frost will continue Friday Night Lights camp, revives women’s clinic
Nebraska football announced its summer camp schedule Thursday, choosing to keep the Friday Night Lights event that was created and popularized by former coach Mike Riley.
That camp — presumably for high-profile prospects — will take place June 15. Friday Night Lights in past years was open to the public, though Thursday’s announcement didn’t mention whether that will be the case this summer.
Nebraska will also hold youth camps June 2 and June 9, with high school individual camps being held June 6 and 7. On June 16, Nebraska will conduct a 7-on-7 tournament — entry fee is $350 per team — and simultaneously have a “Down In The Trenches” lineman camp that includes half pads.
A team camp will be held June 20-22.
Nebraska is also reviving a women’s clinic, which will be held on June 14. The Huskers long had a women’s clinic day, but it was ended during the Bo Pelini era after one of the campers sued the Bo Pelini Foundation in 2012 after she said she was injured in 2010 at the Football 101 event.
More information on the camps can be found here.