Smith says defense will be fine

Nebraska senior safety P.J. Smith has a message for critics of the Nebraska defense. "We have the potential to be the best defense since Coach Bo has been here."

Lincoln, NE - Nebraska senior safety P.J. Smith says the Huskers don't listen to their critics on defense. The critics that say the Nebraska offense better carry the squad in 2012.

"It's not how we are built on the defense. All we know is that we have to stop teams from scoring. We don't care if we win by one point or 40. And we don't care what people are saying."

In fact, if you ask Smith, he feels the defense will be more than alright come fall.

"The defense is getting better. We have the potential to be the best defense since Coach Bo has been here," said the Louisiana product. "Guys understand it now. We didn't understand it last year, myself included. You could ask some guys their locker combination and they couldn't tell you. Guys are picking stuff up now."

Maybe it was a new conference. Maybe it was a defense, featuring three preseason All-Americans, buying into the hype. Whatever the reason, the 2011 season was not what many expected from the Blackshirts.

"It was a lack of focus and a lack of concentration. The bottom line is, the coaches explained it to us and it was our job to execute it," said Smith. "For a lot of guys, the mental preparation was just not there.

"Guys I'm assuming didn't get into the playbook when we went over it. We didn't have tests, so you would go in the meeting room, then go out to practice, and not see their guys with the playbooks after that. Now you are seeing it. Guys are watching extra film, going to the training room and reading their playbooks. You never saw that last year. Guys understand that it makes it easier once you get out to the field."

And it's not just four or five players with a better understanding. In the secondary, Smith reports a major rotation of players each and every practice.

"It's exciting to see a lot of the guys coming along. I mean a lot of players. Guys are understanding what it's time to do, and more importantly what we have to do," said Smith. "When Coach Joseph came in, he gives us a test everyday we are in the (film) room. He puts pressure on us. He gives us a test and says we have two minutes to do it and he will count. When two minutes are up, if you didn't answer you get a F.

"It's making guys think quicker. When you are out on the field, we might get a call quick and have to know what's going on."

Smith's seeing Joseph's impact on an individual level as well.

"I go up and watch film sometimes one-on-one and he's telling me things I'm like, 'dang, I never thought of it that way.' He's slowing the game down by just showing us stuff he knows," said Smith. "He's smart a guy. He understands defenses.

"I will give you an example. We are looking at a play and he says 'if you never know, get on the hash, the ball is going to come on the hash'. He said, 'I haven't even seen this play yet, but I bet the the quarterback is going to throw the ball on the hash. Sure enough, the quarterback rolled and he threw it on the hash. Couple days later, they ran it in practice and I was right on the hash to knock the ball down."

Both the Nebraska defense and offense aren't likely to game plan against one another in the Red-White Spring game, but the match-up in less than two weeks should shed some light on how far the Nebraska defense has really come in just a short amount of time.

Josh Harvey has covered college football and recruiting for Fox Sports & since 2008. He is now the Publisher of Big Red Report, covering Nebraska athletics.
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