The Husker football machine continued to chug on Monday as spring practice entered its second week.
Running backs Wandale Robinson and Maurice Washington did not suit up to practice on Monday, as Robinson continued to recover from a minor hamstring strain while Washington was processed in California for charges of distributing child pornography and “sending revenge porn.”
“Next man up,” running backs coach Ryan Held said. “There has to be other guys that are ready.”
Without those two available, practice ran as usual for the Huskers. Drills continued with both walk-ons and the limited scholarship running backs who were available. For the walk-ons, their use grew due to the strong winter offseason the Huskers had.
“Some of the walk-on guys have done a good job,” Held said. “We have some of these fullback guys transitioning into running back because we don’t use the fullback.”
That process was seen in junior walk-on Austin Hemphill, who underwent the transition last season as he redshirted. Held praised other walk-on and redshirt freshman running back Brody Belt for his practice and overall offseason on Monday.
Belt’s best spring practice coincided with sophomore running back Jaylin Bradley’s equally stellar performance on Monday, according to Held. For Bradley, his practice on Monday had him working with the second-team offense.
“I want to see him [Bradley] be more consistent in everything he does,” Held said. “Being able to understand the play, be more physical, make better second, third-level decisions and generally make more plays.”
As Bradley redshirted last season, his offseason was a bit longer. That redshirt season has appeared to pay off as he is at a better playing weight, Held said.
In Monday’s practice, the Huskers ran drills that include a modified version of the famous Oklahoma drill. In the original drill, a defensive player and an offensive player are pitted against each other and a player wins with either a tackle or the offensive player running through him.
“It’s a three-level blocking drill so it has o-line, d-line, tight ends, linebacks, receivers and the dbs,” Held said.
That modified drill was given a new name, the Nebraska drill, due to Nebraska’s famous rivalry with Oklahoma.
In the drill, the runner wasn’t just a running back. Wide receivers such as J.D Spielman were also used as both runners and blockerson Monday’s drill.
“We get that experience to run between the tackles,” wide receiver Mike Williams said.
The usage of the wide receivers was also emphasized third-level blocking seen between the defensive backs and wide receivers.
“If you just come up and stop your feet and your feet are even, we say ‘Even Feet will get ya beat,’” Held said. “We want to create lanes for the ball-carrier.”
As seen from last season, competitions were held to see who the best downfield blocking wide receiver was.
“Everything was a competition,” Williams said. “He’ll [Walters] put the number of knockdowns or plus 2s, we call it, on the back of the leading room door so we can see who won and lost.”
Overall, blocking has been the most important aspect for Nebraska. The Huskers blocking struggles were seen with a weaker offensive line last season. That strength problem is slowing fading away and begins in the weight room. For starting right tackle Brenden Jaimes, his weight has increased from 270 to 300 pounds.
“I think everybody was really uncertain last year and everybody knew what to expect this year,” Jaimes said. “Overall, we were a lot more mentally prepared for it [offseason weight program].”
The added weight on the field has been something the Nebraska coaching staff has hammered home. That weight increase was also seen with redshirt freshman Cameron Jurgens, who is adding weight quickly to become more suited for the offensive line
With more weight and improved blocking techniques, the Huskers’ practice was fully operational on Monday as the offense ran through multiple plays.