LESS THAN PERFECT
You probably had to be there after Monday’s practice to appreciate the sequence.
Reporters went from the outer lobby, to the lobby, to inside the Hawks Championship facility, then back to the lobby and then outside, directed in each case by a sports information representative, before finally being allowed back in the lobby to conduct interviews with, among others, Tim Beck.
During that time, offensive players ran sprints, lots of sprints, encouraged by Beck and the other offensive assistants. At one point, trainers hustled through the closed doors.
It wasn’t something reporters needed to see.
“We made some mistakes, that’s all,” Beck said by way of explaining the sprints.
So clearly, practice was less than perfect on the offensive side of the ball.
“They’re sore and they’re tired, and they’ve just got to keep pushing themselves,” said the Huskers’ new offensive coordinator. “I liked our effort, effort was good. Ninety percent of the time it was good. The 10 percent wasn’t very good. I’m a perfectionist. I want it to be perfect.
“I’m going to keep pushing the guys until they get it.”
Beck was asked if the problem was one of focus, that perhaps the players saw the “light at the end of the tunnel,” the culmination of spring practice, the Red-White intrasquad game on Saturday.
“I don’t think today they did,” he said. “No, I don’t think today they saw the light at the end of the tunnel, but eventually they will. I want them to keep working, you know. The goal isn’t the spring game. The goal is just to continue to get better every day.”
To extend the metaphor, the light at the end of the tunnel was an oncoming train in the form of the wind sprints. A team finds out something about itself in such situations.
“It shows mental toughness,” said I-back Rex Burkhead. “It shows when the times get tough, who’s going to push through it, who’s going to be there for you and make the sacrifice when times get tough.”
Installation of the offense is a on-going process, even though only three practices remain. And “we threw some wrinkles (in) today,” Beck said. “That was part of the (10 percent). That was the mental aspect when you change the pieces and change some parts of what we did. There was probably some confusion, a little bit, when you mix in different defenses you see and the variables change.”
Those things can cause some hesitancy and lead to mistakes. “But that’s OK,” said Beck. “It’s OK that necessarily, maybe, assignment-wise they’re not perfect because they won’t be after 12 practices. But it’s not OK to put the ball on the ground. It’s not OK to jump offsides.”
During a Saturday scrimmage, those things weren’t a problem. In some 150 plays, there was only one fumble and two false starts, according to coach Bo Pelini. Beck didn’t give a number, but it was a reasonable assumption there were more than one and two of each.
Beck was sending a message, which the players received. “Definitely,” Burkhead said, “because it’s not going to help you out when the games roll around. We’re really harping on those.
“We’re really trying to clean them up, and that discipline will take us a long way.”
SPANO’S UNCERTAIN SITUATION
Quarterback Kody Spano, who has come back from two ACL injuries, has drawn praise from Pelini for his persistence this spring, most recently following Saturday’s scrimmage.
The sophomore from Stephenville, Texas, didn’t practice Monday. “We’ll find out more in a little bit, a couple of more days,” said Beck. “I know he’s seeing a doctor. I’m not really sure the prognosis.”
Beck said it didn’t have to do with the knee injuries, however.
SPRING GAME STUFF
Beck reiterated what Pelini said following Saturday’s scrimmage that teams for the Red-White game would be determined by a player draft, with players rather than coaches drafting.
The large crowds the Huskers draw for their spring game “puts a little more excitement into the game at the end of the day. There’s no question about it,” said Beck. “I think even for the fans, they’re kind of eager to see the new faces and who’s playing and who’s doing well.”
Last year’s intrasquad game drew a crowd of 77,936.
Players “get a chance to go out there and play in front of that environment; it’s a good warm-up to some degree of knowing what it’s going to be like without the coaches being on the field, being out there on their own,” Beck said. “And I think they’ll be really excited. It’s a great atmosphere.
“Being at other places, we never had really good crowds.”
At Kansas, where he was most recently before coming to Nebraska, “we had crowds but never huge, 20,000 maybe, at the biggest,” he said.