Full contact arrives for Spring practice

When the pads go on, players and coaches alike are very anxious to see just what happens. The intensity picks up, the energy seems to swell and just like a game, you can hear the contact from the upper balcony. Contact was the name of the game as Nebraska experienced live action for the first time this Spring.

Amidst an eager crowd, parents and their children attending for the "Youth Experience", Nebraska took to the field turf for the first day in full pads, experiencing live contact for the first time. The day went as expected or in this case, as hoped. "We put in a long hard day's work today," head coach Bill Callahan said. "Our guys worked extremely hard for the first time in pads and it was really profitable."


The practice was highlighted by the "Oklahoma" drill, a drill that is a basic three on three drill, three down linemen for each side, the defense having a QB and a RB, while the defense had to safeties, one up front and one back.  


The drill was easily the most physical practice on the day and overall, Callahan was pleased with its debut. "It was great tempo, great attitude and everything we look for in the drill came out," Callahan said. "We'll only improve on that as we move on."


Within the approximately 10 minutes that the drill was run, the highlight came when starting running back Cory Ross broke free and ran through and over strong safety Travis Gingery. The players yelled in approval and even the fans in attendance couldn't help but acknowledge Ross's convincing play. "It just picks everything up," Callahan said of the play energizing the practice. "The spirit is high in that drill and it was really interesting to watch the two groups work."


"And, when he makes a finish like that, like he did on that particular run to score in that drill, everyone comes alive and they are cranked up and juiced up and they are excited for each other."


With the pads on, there was little doubt that much of the emphasis today would be slanted towards the issue of physicality. Callahan made note, however, of the fact that consistent to his plans from the outset of Spring, it was special teams that got extra special attention. "Our number one area of emphasis this spring is special teams," Callahan said. "We're working on kickoff cover, lane distribution and we're working on those details that define great coverage."


"That's something we are continuing to impress upon our players."


Along with the physical drills, Nebraska went through an actual scrimmage, running approx 20 plays live. Like the drills, the physicality of scrimmage was a need, but Callahan reported that during the course of that scrimmage, no players came out with any significant injuries.


And, on that front, the return of offensive lineman Lydon Murtha was a welcome sight, though Callahan said that Murtha came back in a very limited role, confined to doing a lot of individual work with no participation in the drills or scrimmage. Matt O'Shea made his return to the field yesterday. Donald DeFrand is still absent and on crutches, suffering from what coach Callahan said was a mid-foot sprain. Wali Muhammad is still out indefinitely, attending to his academics.


Practice wasn't the only thing on people's minds as following immediately after the third day of Spring practices, the "Youth Experience" hit the field.


502 kids between the ages of 8 & 13 took to the field with Callahan leading the way to the sound of the "Tunnelwalk" theme.


Players and coaches tutored the children in various drills, from line to in the secondary. Each group of kids would then rotate to one of the other stations until the first ever event was over. "I thought it was great," Callahan said. "It was fun to see the little Huskers, just to have the opportunity to be around our players, be on the field and go through some of the drills we normally go through, - I thought it was great. It was a lot of fun."


Nebraska will resume practice on Monday, going every other day until another back-to-back the following weekend.


The spring game is scheduled for April 16th.

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