The Huskers took the practice field in full pads at the Hawks indoor facilities on Monday. Nebraska defensive coordinator John Papuchis met up with several members of the media after practice.
As the Huskers start their last week of spring practice, coach JP doesn’t want his team to lose focus.
“You get to the end of the week and guys start to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Papuchis said.”I just don’t want our guys to lose focus. We still have today, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, depending on what we decide to do. Then the game on Saturday. So there is still progress to be made. Even though we are getting to the tail end of spring, I still want our guys to come out focused, and prepared every day, and treat it like it’s the first day.”
The first year defensive coordinator likes the idea of the annual red and white spring game, but it’s just another day at work for him.
“The spring game is great, and a great attraction for fans. It’s great for recruits, but to me it’s just another practice,” Papuchis said. “You get to see guys in front of fans, and on the game field. I think the biggest key to me, is that we continue to progress through the weekend. If we do that, and we are better at the end of the week, then it’s been a good week.”
When asked what he would like to see in his defense during Saturdays scrimage, Papuchis said effort is the key.
“I hope to see tremendous effort. I hope we see guys flying around and trying to create turn overs, and takeling,” Papuchis said. “You know, that’s what we believe in, and Saturday is going to be really vanilla for us. We are not going to call a lot of our defenses that we have worked on through the course of our spring ball. With that being said I want to see a lot of energy.”
Papuchis said that there are a handful of players who have made a great improvement from last season. The majority of the greatly improved have came from the back seven on the defense.
“I think on the back end, there have made some signifigant jumps,” Papuchis said. “I think Damion Stafford has made a good jump. I think Ciante Evans is doing good things. I think Antonio Bell is doing good things. I think P.J. Smith, Andrew Green are doing good. Those first group of guys in the secondary have made a pretty dramatic jump in my opoinion. Harvey Jackson has done a nice job at the dime, and at safety.”
One player in particular has impressed the Husker defensive coordinator the most, and said the rest of his group is coming along nicely.
“Will Compton is playing close to as good as he has played since I have seen him here,” Papuchis said.” Fish (Sean Fisher) has had a pretty good spring, and Zoe (Alonzo Whaley) as well. I really feel good about the back seven guys with the first group.”
As for when the light went on for the back seven, Papuchis couldn’t put his finger on it, but he thinks new defensive backs coach Terry Joseph has had a lot to do with it.
“I think it started in the off season,” Papuchis said about the back seven starting to pay better. “I think their understanding of the defense is better. I think Coach Joseph has done a pretty good job with them, with him being here for such a short time. It’s hard to say when the light really clicked. I just think that they have been playing better over the course of spring. Hopefully we continue to improve, and we are where we want to be come September.”
The Huskers will be very limited in Saturdays scrimage the defensive tackle position. They will only have three players available to go, due to injuries.
“We have to be a little creative, as we divide the teams up,” Papuchis said.” We have to make sure they are balanced. I am sure there are some guys that will swing from both teams. I don’t think you can hold up with just 3 d-tackles on each side of the ball for both teams. ”
With the limited reps at defensive tackle, Papuchis said one guy in particular has taken advantage of his increased reps.
“I think the guy who’s shown the most is Kenny Anderson,”Papuchi said. “A lot of people probably don’t even know who Kenny is, but he’s been in the program for a very long time. He has played defensive end for the majority of his career, and now he’s playing d-tackle. He’s done a really nice job. I think he has opened a lot of our eyes.”
As for playing time in the fall? Papuchis said that Anderson has a tall ladder to climb, but is very capable.
“We wont really know till the fall.” Papuchis said of Anderson’s in-game playing time. “When fall camp rolls around we will add Chase Rome, Thadd Randle, Kevin Williams, Todd Peat, and the two incoming freshman. Add those guys into the mix, and the reps will be divided a little bit differently. We will see how he stacks up in the fall.”
Both Williams and Randle are coming back from knee injuries, and have done individual work outs, but have not practiced with the team.
As for his thoughts on how happy he is with the Blackshirt’s spring, as any coach would say, he can never be too happy.
“I don’t know. I am happy with the progress,” Papuchis said. “I don’t know if you can ever be completly happy with what you’ve done. You can always do better. But I am happy with where we are from where we were on March 10th or whatever day we started spring practice.”
The Huskers will have the day off Tuesday, and return to practice on Wednesday.
By Jimmie Allen
Contact the writer at JAhuskercorner@gmail.com
Add Husker Corner on facebook at www.facebook.com/huskercorner
Follow us on Twitter @Husker Corner