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

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. (World-Herald News Service)

LINCOLN — Lamar Jackson and Stanley Morgan were still huffing as they spoke with media members following their second Scott Frost-style practice.

Who has time to catch their breath when the “live bullets” — how Jackson described the flurry of plays Nebraska runs in a short period of time — are flying? There’s a time for teaching and correction, but it most assuredly is 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.”

Huskers this spring will be following a format new to the program, at least in recent history.

Bill Callahan’s NFL-style installations were regimented and built upon each other like classroom lessons — which was trouble for anyone who fell behind. Bo Pelini fancied a quicker pace of action, 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 assistant coaches offer corrections to players. There are also film sessions and walk-throughs before workouts.

Other than that, it’s full speed ahead as the coaches work to condense 130-140 total repetitions into each practice and mold a 4-8 squad into something far 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 postponed entering the NFL draft to return for his senior season, said he also likes the morning setting as opposed to workouts later in the day because he feels he has extra time to recover.

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 Spielman 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, actually. He cited snapping errors at center and a sloppier effort Tuesday than their spring debut earlier in the month. 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 quickly. It already had Frost on Tuesday pointing to junior college transfer running back Greg Bell 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 experiencing two workouts, Jackson said he’s happy he added eight pounds of muscle and lost 2 percent body fat. If he’s going to live up to his personal goals — “hits and picks,” he said — then step No. 1 is staying on the field as the spring sprint continues.

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

We strive for accuracy. Report a typo, inaccuracy, or mistake here.