You didn't have to see today's practice to know what the level of play was like out on the grass by Cook Pavilion. You could hear it. Even when most of the situational practices were done with ball-carriers finishing on their feet, up until that point the contact was intense to say the least.
And, at least this time, it was the offense getting the edge on Cosgrove's group of "blackshirts" im the making. "Today was a little bit of a disappointment." Cosgrove stated of his defenses' performance in short-yardage situations. "It's a physical drill and they are going to win some and we are going to win some."
Right now is a much different time for the offense than it was during the first part of Spring. Though this is new style of play is still being drilled into the collective minds of the players, from where they were and are now is an obviously vast improvement. It stands to reason that the offense should have more success against the defense over time, but Cosgrove isn't willing to concede that they are getting the upper-hand. "We have a tough offense to defend." Cosgrove stated. "A lot of the early part of camp was more mental - alignment and assignment. But, I see us improving everyday on defensively as we get accustomed to the different types of formations."
"Kids are playing with more confidence and we're playing faster so I've been very pleased with our practices most recently."
One of the more pleasing things has to be the return of defensive tackle Brandon Teamer and nose tackle LeKevin Smith. Teamer sidelined with an ankle injury and Smith, cramps, their absence has meant a lack of the usual continuity in the middle. Cosgrove said of their return that while each isn't back to full speed, they are a definite sight for sore eyes. "It's nice to have them back." he said. "We're winding down with our two a days and guys will start getting healthy so we've been fortunate. Guys have got a few nicks, but as a whole, we're pretty healthy overall."
The return of Smith will give Nebraska back it's best run-stopper at the nose. The addition of Adam Carriker on the inside has helped to make that drop-off as minimal as possible in Smith's absence, but Cosgrove stated that Smith's ability is welcome back, but so to is his size. "It's always nice to have a three hundred pounder in there." he said. "He's a big-strong-physical kid - he can control the "A"-gap, so we need a guy like that in there."
Another "guy" that hasn't made his way into the starting line-up as yet, but seems to be making a strong case to be there is cornerback, Cortney Grixby. Just a freshman that came from an experience of playing mostly quarterback at the high school level, Grixby has made the transition seemingly seamless. So much so that while he's not attained the starting spot in the "nickel" packages, he's been featured there in recent days. "He's having a very fine camp." Cosgrove stated. "He's been able to get a lot of reps because "Mac" (Lornell McPherson) has been a little dinged up and I've been very impressed with what I've seen so far."
Again, Grixby's background doesn't necessarily lend to him being considered some sort of lock to be an excellent corner in Division 1-A, but Cosgrove stated that what Grixby needs to be successful he has and in abundance. "(He has) A lot of quickness, a lot of confidence as a true freshman." he said. "He has tremendous athletic ability, a big vertical jump - I think it's 40 inches or something like that. He has tremendous speed and change of direction."
"You don't necessarily have to be a DB (in high school) to be a DB in college. We're looking for athletic ability and "Grix" has what it takes."
Tomorrow, Nebraska takes the field for it's second to last session of two-a-days, the last to be this Sunday. On Saturday morning kicking off at 8:00 will be coach Callahan's 5k "Fun Run/Walk for Resources".
The event's proceeds will go to the University of Nebraska Libraries Electronic Resources Fund and to Juvenile Diabetes.
If you weren't able to register on-line for the event, you can still enter by showing up at 6:30 a.m. at the UNL 501 building on 10th and Memorial Drive.
After the event, all participants will be invited to attend Nebraska's football practice that day, but remember to keep your race number because that's what you will need to gain entry.
For full race details, hit this link.
Steve Ryan can be reached at SteveRyan@bigredreport.com or 402-730-5619