Today was supposed to be the final session of two-a-days for Nebraska. Instead, it was a single session of practice that didn't even start until early afternoon.
The reason for the surprise relief from the last day of two practices was actually two-fold for the head coach. "Number one, the team starts school tomorrow," Callahan said. "That's the most important thing for these guys, to get ready to transition to school and academics. Number two, I feel comfortable where we're at from a preparation standpoint. They've worked extremely hard."
The good news didn't stop there as one of the most overriding issues during the mid to late part of camp has been the absence of key players due to a variety of injuries and today they got many of them back.
Offensive lineman Lydon Murtha, Offensive lineman Cory Timm and another offensive linemen in Seppo Evwaraye returned to practice today. That adds to Lornell McPherson who returned a couple of days ago. Now, a team that once was beset by a seeming barrage of injuries now finds itself looking towards to the positive with less than two weeks to go. "With the exception of Jordan Adams, we came through it pretty healthy," Callahan said. "In fact, Seppo Evwaraye made the field today. Lydon Murtha and Cory Timm came back and returned. Their work was limited, but it was good to see them back out."
Another positive thing at least for one player was the fact that quarterback Beau Davis appears to be back with the second team. Callahan stated that Davis had gotten more reps today, but remarked about Ryan Goodman, "He's still very much in it for the second spot."
With so much focus on the offense, the injuries and the team just learning how things would be installed, one aspect that hasn't gotten so much attention is the overall conditioning of the team. Strength and Conditioning coach, Dave Kennedy has been with the program less than a year, but according to many players joke about how it seems like it's been a lifetime instead.
And what Kennedy finds the most satisfying about his efforts throughout the Spring and now the Fall is that he hasn't had to back-track even once. "We've stayed on schedule." he said. "We've never had to slow down or go back because these guys weren't progressing at the rate we wanted them to go. I've been real happy about the fact that everyone puts the effort in I expect and I expect a lot."
So much does the new coach expect that former players and current NFL players like Larry Fitzgerald even come back to re-train with NU's new guru of S & C. For Kennedy, it's just fundamentals at work. "With anything you do out there, there's fundamentals of how to do it." Kennedy said. "Conditioning is no different as you have to start someplace in order to get where you want to be."
"I wasn't here when prior , so I don't know how they did things and how different they are from what I do, but everyone has have to fundamentals in order to really accomplish what you are trying to achieve."
What Kennedy has achieved is nothing if you were to ask him. He shrugs a bit when someone comments about how good the players look, gives a little smirk and says, "The season isn't here yet." No, it's not and with two weeks to go, Kennedy's fire for his job is not lessening in it's intensity. "Nobody asks me to take it easy because they know I won't." he said. "And I have been most pleased with the fact that I haven't had to."
"Everyday is another chance to get closer to where I want them to be, so everyone knows that they have to be ready."
"Conditioning never stops."
Nebraska will finally get a day off tomorrow as classes start at UNL. A days respite will be followed by the official practice season as Nebraska continues preparations for their first game against Western Illinois.
Steve Ryan can be reached at SteveRyan@bigredreport.com or 402-476-5006