LINCOLN — Cooperative performance. American football. Participation patterns.
Each bit of unique verbiage had its moment Tuesday as defensive coordinator Bob Diaco held court with the media following practice at the Hawks Center. Here’s a look at the context of each:
» When asked about the competition between Luke Gifford and Marcus Newby at outside linebacker, Diaco characterized it as more of a “cooperative performance.” The idea being that the two can combine to give the Huskers the best possible production at the position.
“I think they’re doing a beautiful job getting ready and cooperating,” Diaco said. “I don’t feel a lot of angst and anxiety with the competition at that spot.”
» Diaco was asked to give his assessment of last weekend’s scrimmage, and was questioned specifically about coach Mike Riley’s comment from Saturday about too many missed tackles coming out of the workout. The coordinator said he thought the tackling level was “appropriate,” adding that any football game will include missed stops.
“Having to make tackles in the open field is an appropriate comment for any contest in American football anywhere in the world,” Diaco said.
» Nebraska will craft game plans down to small details, Diaco said, and one of those details is an approach for how and when different players will be on the field.
“We believe in participation patterns that are functional based on their ability to give effort,” Diaco said. “And, as the situations arise, the players that can play better in that situation than the others.”
Newell’s new position
Since moving to nose tackle one day before the opening of fall camp, Peyton Newell has made sure he’s closely following instructions given by Parrella.
“You’re pretty much taking on three guys every play,” Newell said. “It’s doing the right technique, and it’s definitely obvious when you don’t use the technique Coach Parrella teaches us, you’re going to be exposed. It’s very important to mentally focus every play.”
How Parrella focuses on delivering that message makes it easier for every player on the defensive line to focus on the tasks Parrella wants them to do. Newell, a 6-3, 298-pound junior from Hiawatha, Kansas, said it’s easy to tell everyone is listening.
“He always talks about, ‘Don’t fear the man with 10,000 moves, fear the man that’s mastered one move 10,000 times,’ ” Newell said. “That’s something that we focus on, and it’s important to do the moves that he teaches us. Like I said, if you don’t, you’re going to get exposed.”
Newell said he and other players feed off the energy Parrella and other young coaches on the staff bring to practice. On the fourth or fifth time running a play, Newell said Parrella is just a step behind him.
Though the position is relatively new to him — Newell spent most of his first three seasons in Lincoln at defensive end — he’s embraced the change.
“It’s go time,” Newell said. “This is my fourth camp, my body has developed, I’m excited to play, I have a huge opportunity to play.”
Neal ‘gets better every day’
DaiShon Neal is coming along in camp, defensive line coach John Parrella said, and working on his technique. Neal is currently second-team defensive end.
“We’re trying to get him to play with the right leverage and techniques, and he’s working at it,” Parrella said. “We’ve just got to get him game ready.”
Parrella said Neal is “young, but he gets better every day.”
Ashland-Greenwood graduate Ben Stille just moved to defensive end. Parrella said Stille is “an active kid and he’s quick, and he’s starting to use his hands a little bit better.”
‘Seamless’ on special teams, too
Last week Riley said the first week of fall camp was seamless and smooth. Nebraska’s newest assistant coach, safeties and special teams coach Scott Booker, wasn’t about to disagree with the boss Tuesday.
“I don’t think I’m going to go against the head coach, right?” Booker said. “If he said seamless, I’m going to say seamless, too. It’s been a good seven days. I think when Coach Riley looks at it from his point of view, he likes seeing the synergy of the offense, defense and special teams.
“As coaches, when we have our own position, we remember the ball that was caught on this (play) or the punt that wasn’t punted exactly where we wanted it to be.”
Booker didn’t divulge information about who will be returning punts and kickoffs this season. He said it wouldn’t be fair to anyone to start naming names so early in camp.
“Not yet,” Booker said. “It’s early. We haven’t gone 11-on-11 yet full-go, punt vs. punt return, kickoff vs. kickoff return. To single out somebody now, that wouldn’t be right.”
Weber enjoying work
While realizing that he doesn’t have a vote in the matter, middle linebacker Chris Weber said he’s enjoying morning practices.
“Whatever they say is what I do,” Weber said. “I like having it here in the morning now because you’re not waiting around for practice all day. You can get your practice out of the way then come up to the meeting room.”
Only having one longer practice each day allows more time for recovery and meetings to go over what went right and wrong in practice. The senior from Elkhorn has been through practices at different times of the day over the course of his NU career.
“We come back up and do some recovery stuff with the strength coaches,” Weber said. “We have a meeting defensively where we go over practice (and make) corrections. Then we can get a break for dinner and we’re back for more meetings to correct the film.”
» Parrella joked he’s never lost his voice before, like he did just two days into training camp.
“I don’t know if I was sick or what,” Parrella said. “First time that’s ever happened in my entire life. That wasn’t fun. The meetings were fun. They had to listen very well.”
» Defensive lineman Khalil Davis is working at all three line positions — both ends, and tackle. He said he’s excited for fans to see how the 3-4 defense operates against an opponent.
“We’re all just ready to go show what we can do,” Davis said. “There’s a lot of different talents, different speeds and different things we can do. It’s going to be pretty scary to see what we can do.”
» Slot receiver Keyan Williams didn’t practice Tuesday, and it is unknown how long he’ll be out or why, as only Riley can address injuries. Williams was dressed in street clothes.