Matt Rhule's comments about Nebraska transfer linebacker raise eyebrows

  • Stefon Thompson joined the Nebraska football team in the winter.
  • The linebacker's coaches have noticed he's not picked things up as fast as hoped.
Stefon Thompson takes on a blocker when he was with Syracuse
Stefon Thompson takes on a blocker when he was with Syracuse / Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Nebraska football head coach Matt Rhule isn’t one of those guys who calls players out by name all that much when it’s in a negative light. That’s why his comments earlier this week about transfer linebacker Stefon Thompson stand out.

“Stefon’s had a difficult transition,” Rhule said during one post-practice press conference. “He didn’t come in in the best of shape, hadn’t really done our offseason program before. All very new to him. And it’s been a struggle.”

This isn’t totally a one off, Rhule has made comments about players needing to get better or needing to get into shape. He talked about former wide receiver Josh Fleeks needing to get into playing shape before last season. But the fact remains that Rhule doesn’t speak negatively about specific players all that often.

His comments this week illustrate two things. The first is that Rhule is shifting into “second-year” Matt Rhule. He believes this Nebraska football team isn’t as fragile as his first group and he can be a bit more brutally honest. The second item to take away from these comments is that he believes they will help Thompson get better.

“I brought him here to help him accelerate his pro career,” Rhule added, “so we’re going to push him. You can tell by me answering (the question) honestly, I’m pushing him.”

Nebraska football head coach has some stark words for Stefon Thompson

Rhule wasn’t all touchy feeling last season. He had some moments with some choice words for his team, especially after the Michigan loss. In the postgame press conference after getting thumped by the Wolverines he outright questioned his team’s commitment. 

Those comments seem to have worked. The defense was among the best in the country for the rest of the year.

Rhule was quick to point out that Thompson has already responded to the coaches' challenges. The Nebraska football head coach said that the transfer linebacker—who had 171 career tackles for the Syracuse Orange—has reshaped his body in the last few weeks.

We’ll see as the Nebraska football spring practice continues, and especially at the Spring Game, whether Matt Rhule pushed the right buttons for Stefon Thompson.