Notebook: Papuchis Report

Defense was once again the focus in the fifth day of spring practice, and Wednesday's keynote speaker was defensive coordinator John Papuchis. He spoke to the media about a wide variety of issues ranging from the spring game, the linebacker situation, to a talented JUCO transfer who will make an immediate impact.

Wednesday's practice

"I thought the effort and energy was pretty good," said Papuchis in his opening statement. "Today was a big install day so a lot was going on but I generally thought it was pretty good."

While last year's Blackshirts didn't quite live up to expectations, many are probably wondering what the first-year coordinator is working on to return his defense to Blackshirt status.

"It's a little bit of everything right now because it is still early in the installation process," he said. "The thing I'm looking for is to see guys correct mistakes they've made in previous practices. Guys are going to make mistakes, that's what spring ball is for—to learn and kind of develop in the system. I want to see guys that can correct mistakes they made in earlier practices."

Seissay continues to impress

After Monday's practice, Coach Pelini praised JUCO transfer Mohammed Seissay when he was asked a question about the defensive backs. After Wednesday's practice, it appeared as if the 6-foot-2, 200 pound junior had made a good impression on his defensive coordinator as well.

"For a guy coming in mid-year we were expecting him to jump right in the mix and he's certainly done that," said Papuchis. "He's a quick learner, he's a smart guy and he's a hard worker. He's on track where we thought he would be."

Alonzo Whaley

While fans may be excited to hear about Seissay's addition to the secondary, a big area for concern remains at the linebacker position. But that's a natural response when you lose a player like Lavonte David.

Papuchis spoke about David's possible replacement Alonzo Whaley, a 6-foot-1, 230 pound senior linebacker from Madisonville, Texas.

"He's doing a good job. You know, he's learning," Papuchis said. "He's played Buck, he's played Mike here; now he's playing Will. It's just a different opportunity for him, but it's one that I think he wants to grab a hold of because it's his senior year, his last go-around, and I think he wants to make the most of it."

Young linebacker prospects

Two redshirt freshmen—David Santos and Max Pirman—were also brought up as possible replacements.

"David (Santos) is making some progress," said Papuchis. "Just with David being in his first spring and him being a freshman, there's so much learning he has to do.

"For Max (Pirman), it's really early for him to have a great evaluation because he didn't get a lot of reps at linebacker—he didn't get any reps at linebacker last fall. Everything he's doing right now is for the first time and it's going to take some time for him to get where he needs to be."

Spring Game on TV?

Last year, A.D. Tom Osborne had the opportunity to broadcast Nebraska's spring game but declined to so. This year he had a change of heart and will allow the Big Ten Network to replay the game at 9:30 p.m. Papuchis spoke of the possible advantages.

"I think it's good for recruiting," he explained. "It helps for guys who aren't close enough to come to the game or have conflicts to be able to watch it on TV."

While he did admit that he doesn't really know to what extent it will help in recruiting, he does recognize that it's also "good for the fans."

Lack of detail

Last year's defense fell short of expectations to say the least, and Papuchis gave some insight into why that may have been.

"I thought the thing that hurt us last year was the lack of detail," he said. "I thought we had the overall idea of what we were trying to get done but the detail wasn't great."

And when your attention to detail diminishes, so does your defensive production. Which could explain Nebraska's inability to get off the field last year on third down—a trait that once defined this Husker defense.

"I mean when you look at the longer scoring drives that we gave up we were not getting off the field on third down when we had opportunities. When we've been really good on defense, we've been really good on third downs," Papuchis said.

"The goal coming out of spring is to make sure we are a more detail-oriented team coming out of spring than we've ever been and tying up some of the loose ends that kind of got us in trouble last year."

Doing anything differently?

When you get promoted it's common to be compared to your predecessor. How many times has Osborne been compared to Devaney? Or Pelini to Osborne? Or Martinez to Crouch?

That's why it wasn't out of the ordinary when Coach Papuchis was brought up in the same sentence as former defensive coordinator Carl Pelini.

"I think to be an effective coach you have to coach to your personality. Obviously Carl and I are a little different in terms of our personality, so I guess if you asked the players I'm sure there would be a difference, but in terms of the system and structure of how we're doing things it's not really that different."

- Josh Harvey -

J.C. Reid has worked for Big Red Report magazine and BigRedReport.com since December of 2011. He is currently a junior at UNL, studying Journalism.
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