Amidst an overcast, windy and sometimes wet Spring day, the Husker football team took to the field turf of Memorial Stadium for their first practice of the year. And, as with any first practice, the energy and enthusiasm was obvious. "It was a good day for practice." head coach, Frank Solich said. "They have been energetic in meetings and they have been energetic on the practice-field."
"They (the players) are enthusiastic about wanting to get things done right."
Getting things done right is supposed to be a step in the right direction if not a completely opposite direction from last year's 7-7 season. "Coming off of last season, that was disappointing for everyone involved and everybody wants it to work right, the players more than anybody." Solich stated. While the coaches took much of the blame, at least in regards to the dismissals over the off-season, the players remained, so you can see where at least some of the responsibility shifts.
The onus though is on the full team, coaches to players and during this Spring session, much has to be learned and there isn't much time to do that. There's a lot of new coaches and a limited amount of time, but hopes are high as to what can be accomplished. "We only have 14 practices left." Solich stated. "We are trying to maximize our time."
"We will be a bit more of an experienced team, but that will be counterbalanced with new staff members and new terminology, so it will look a little rough for awhile, but I expect it will smooth out somewhat quickly for these guys in how they pick things up and how they are getting along."
There were some obvious absences in today's practice, some Solich indicated to in regards to their physical status at this time. "Willie Amos was out the first part of practice, but was able to go through group practice and we were hoping that Jermaine Leslie would be out here, but he still has some time to recover." Solich stated.
Aside from personnel issues that make things somewhat different, the way NU governs practice itself, well, that's changed dramatically. Now, the individual units practice in five minute increments, station to station, to better utilize time. "We're having 25, 26 periods, everything being broken down into five-minute blocks." Solich stated. "Intermixed, we had 7 on 7 that was thrown in there."
"For the first day, I thought it went well. We didn't have any coaches that got lost or any players that got lost, so I thought it went well."
Speaking of getting lost, if you have ever studied or even briefly looked at an old playbook for Nebraska, you can get intimidated quite quickly by some of even the simplest terms in regards to motions, sets, formations and the play itself. Having to memorize all that for any player is hard to do, now, some of them have to do it all over again. For both the old and new players, it's like starting all over again. "Everyone is starting off with the same problem." Solich stated. "That's learning new terminology and so that puts everyone on the same page, so with the older, experienced guys, that experience doesn't come into play."
For Solich himself, he's starting over in a way as well. No longer the offensive coordinator in addition to being the head coach, Solich now has some freedom to do other things, those things that inspired the change in the first place. Today was a chance to do just that. "I was going back and forth between the offensive and defensive stations and offensive and defensive group work." Solich stated. "It enables you to spend as much time with the defense as you do with the offense and that's probably good for your football team."
"It's a little bit of an adjustment, but not that much and I think it will be good in the long run with the two coordinators that we have and my ability to just jump back and forth."
The back and forth is much of what every coach and player will be doing over this Spring, each trying to adjust, each trying to learn and teach new things. Such is the way it is with Spring every year, but this Spring, everything is newer than normal.
New or not, fresh or not, a more even playing field for newbies or not aside, one thing will never change about Spring time and that from a fan's perspective, it's about hope and it's not ironic that the beginning of hope, this most recent Spring birth and the dawn of a perceived new era in Husker football is upon us.
It's definitely not just another year.
Make sure to stay tuned to HuskerConnection Premium as we cover the Spring practices, top to bottom, interview coaches and players, side to side and give you an inside look into how this Spring is developing and who (if anyone) is making the most noise.
Steve Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-730-5619