Head coach Scott Frost and defensive coordinator Erik Chinander reflected on Nebraska’s progress this spring following the Huskers’ final practice leading into the spring game Wednesday.
"We really accomplished a lot of things this spring,” Frost said. “I was pleased today. With a team that doesn't have a culture built the right way, your last couple practices aren't very good. I thought we had a great practice out there today.
“Guys didn't just see this as the last practice, they saw it as another opportunity to get better,” he said.
Frost also talked about the format of the spring game, which will be like any regular football game.
“We’re going to play football,” Frost said. “We’re not going to have the entire team up and going, there are some guys that are probably going to be held out for a variety of reasons, but we want a chance to have an opportunity to compete.”
The team will be divided with limited participants teamed up with backups. One of the limited participants will be sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez. Freshman all-purpose back Wan’Dale Robinson and junior wide receiver JD Spielman will be inactive for the game due to injury.
Sophomore running back Maurice Washington also was officially ruled out of the spring game, as he is due in court in California this week.
“I’ve been coaching the team,” Frost said about how he’s handled the situation. “This isn’t news to us. We knew this whole process has to play out and like I said before, we’re going to wait until everything happens to make any everlasting decisions from our end.”
Frost also mentioned that, in part because of Washington, the team achieved a school record-high GPA.
“He’s been doing well,” Frost said about Washington. “He’s been doing well in school, but I think a lot of guys deserve credit for that. Overall, I think Maurice has done a good job trying to stick to the norm and in what practice he has done, he’s looked good.”
As for Frost’s role in Saturday’s scrimmage, he said it will be similar to the one he had last season when he watched from the field but didn’t do any coaching.
“I enjoy the spring game because I don’t do any coaching,” Frost joked. “I’m going to stay neutral and root for both teams and let the rest of the coaching staff handle it.”
After last spring’s emotional homecoming celebration, Frost said he thinks it will be a different set of feelings this year.
“I’m going to be used to it now,” Frost said. “It was emotional for me last year coming back out of the tunnel for the first time. It was also emotional for me running out for the game that never was at the beginning of the season, but we’ve kind of been there, done that now.”
“It’s always a special deal to be able to come out of the tunnel of Memorial Stadium, but I think it’ll feel a little more like home this year.”
For new defensive line coach Tony Tuioti, Saturday’s spring game has as much excitement as any other practice.
“I look forward to every practice,” Tuioti said. “I’m just excited to see all the fans, and all the players play in front of the fans.”
Frost also touched on Tuioti’s position group, which he has been impressed with this spring.
“I think our d-line has taken a giant step forward this spring,” Frost said. “We had a lot of guys come back so I think we expected that, but Tony’s done a good job with them and they’re playing even better than they did a year ago.”
“I thought we were going to be pretty good up front,” Chinander said. “When you’re good up front, then the rest of the team can catch up. I think that happened, and the back end is playing really good right now.”
“I’m pleased, but I don’t think we’re ready to play in the College Football Playoff by any stretch of the imagination,” Chinander said
Tuioti said much of the cause for improvement has been from his players..
“They’ve been able to hold each other accountable,” Tuioti said. “If we’re good, we want to be better and if we’re better, we want to be at our best. And we want to be at our best every single rep we do.”
Chinander, who was not pleased last Wednesday with his defense’s performance in practice, was in a much better mood this week.
“I think they responded really well,” Chinander said. “They came out today and it was a much different attitude. It was a very spirited practice and I thought we came out and fired on all cylinders.”
As for his approach to the spring game, he said the defense has to hold back for a variety of reasons.
“Every spring game you tamp it down and run some base stuff,” Chinander said. “The game’s on national television, you don’t want to give too much away. You’re going to see a couple guys that haven’t had the chance to play in front of 10,000, let alone 90,000 people. That’ll be really fun to watch.”
Chinander also talked about his approach to the upcoming recruiting period, which he will have to manage his time and travel carefully during. He and his wife are expecting the birth of their third child next week.
“I think we've embraced the attitude where I tell those guys that the last meeting we ever have is, 'I'm going on the road and I am trying to replace you,’” Chinander said. “Your job is to teach the new guys how to take your job and know they can't do it. I think Mo Barry and some of those [defensive backs] are embracing that job. 'I'm going to teach you how to take my job, bud, but you can't do it. You can't outplay me. You can't outwork me.' That's a huge step in the right direction for us."