Put a 20 oz steak in front of me tonight and I'll be all "I mean, OK, but I had a t-bone last night." Deprive me of steak for 23 months and then put three ounces of overcooked chuck flap in front of me and I'm in heaven.
This is the best way to describe my emotions at the moment. For five short minutes at practice today, we got to see three-on-three OL vs. DL. This will be one of those articles where I cannot type fast enough.
Let me pull way back for a moment.
First off, media training camp viewing has been reduced from 12 hours per week to an hour and a half per week. And that hour and a half comes in 15-minute sessions each day while the team is in "indy". That's football practice for "individual drills". That means there's not a football involved for most of the positions. Linebackers work on reading the right gap. Tight ends work on a blocking sled. Safeties work on reading a quarterback (some GA in a t-shirt and shorts who is imitating a QB).
This is being done because Bret Bielema does not want any information to leak out that Nebraska might be able to use. He wants Nebraska coaches watching App State film on offense and Missouri film on defense guessing that those are the schemes those coordinators will employ in 2021. Even one short video of 11 on 11 might give Nebraska coaches 40% of what they need to know.
So I get it. I don't like it, but I get it. It means there's not much to report on, and the "thoughts from Thursday's practice" posts of the past really can't be written anymore. Instead, for the Orange Tier and Seventeen Club subscribers, I write up everything I can on those fifteen minutes of practice each day and post it on the Slack channel (those two tiers get access to our Slack channel, which is more or less our premium message board). I feel much safer putting that stuff there so that there's no way I'd slip up and write something here that might be beneficial to Nebraska. The benefit (for the coaching staff) of me being a fan in the pressbox: I am all-in on Nebraska being 100% in the dark. I love these blurred lines.
Today, with just those five minutes of three-on-threes, I finally have some red meat to talk about. It was the last five-minute session of Indy, and usually that means we have to start heading for the exit (grass fields today, so the exit is the sidewalk over by the Smith Center, and this drill was right by Kirby Avenue), but I asked for a special exception to walk out towards Kirby and then back around the stadium that way. With that, I could max out my 4 minutes and 59 seconds of watching three-on-three.
If you want to know what the reports are like on Slack (YOURS for the low-low price of $60 per year), well, here you go.
Three-on-threes looked like this. The OL went down to join the DL for the final five minute session. As this was happening, my brain was on fire. "WHAAAAT is happening?? Am I going to get to see someone hit someone? Actual football contact?" Yes, we got to see actual football contact. They'd line up with three guys on one side (two OL plus a back which was sometimes a blocking TE) and then three guys on the defensive side (two DL plus a linebacker). Simple play call, whistle, fire off the line, win your battle, whistle and it's over. No scheme stuff here, nothing you can learn from watching a lineman chip a DT and then pass him off to the TE while he goes and hits the LB. This was just… some hitting. Win your battles.
(As you know I often listen to classical while typing. My choice for this post: 1812 Overture. At this point, the cannons are firing and it's PERFECT.)
My brain is still fresh with some thoughts on the hitting so let's get to ramblin'.
- First, maybe it's just because we got to see a football player hit another football player in a football manner for the first time this week, but the play that sticks out to me is freshman center Josh Kreutz chipping and going to the LB and popping a walkon linebacker in the chest, making his orange mouthpiece fly up into the air. Just use the steak analogy above. Maybe it was just your normal block. But something about the crunch of the pads sending a mouthpiece flying made my little football heart sing an entire aria.
- Also saw Big Mo fight through some tough surges from a defensive lineman. Again, probably just a pandemic-like thing where the first live band you hear in 17 months sounds like the greatest band in history, but man, great to see Moses Okpala get mean.
- A walkon offensive lineman and a third-stringer went up against Rod Perry in one drill. From my angle it was kind of hilarious. There's three blockers for three defenders, and something like this isn't three one-on-one blocks (that's kind of the point of the drill), so you're kinda trying to scrape one guy while reaching for the next guy. On this drill, all of the scraping happened… right past Rod. More or less he just stayed stationary, they both missed him, and as the scrum moved away he as just standing there ready wrap up whatever comes his way.
- Saw one play where Alex Pihlstrom was the interior guard and Verdis Brown was the interior DT. Pihlstrom spun Verdis pretty well and closed down the gap the linebacker was trying to shoot. Interesting if only because of their battle for the RG spot this spring. But, only one rep.
- Best pad pop: TE Max Rosenthal v. OLB DJ Johnson. I'm not saying that either guy 'won" the block. Just that neither hesitates at all when approaching a hit. Perhaps this is the best use of this phrase ever: that block just hit different.
- Best offensive moment I saw: Luke Ford and Vederian Lowe collapsing their side of the two-man line in front of them. Both would have gotten a 9.5 from the judges.
- Best defensive moment I saw: freshman DT Sed McConnell and senior DL Rod Perry fired off the line at the whistle and surprised two first-year OL. Knocked one to the ground and the other one off balance. That 0.14 seconds can sometimes be everything.
I will now name the MVP's of the drill. Yes, MVP's of a five minute drill of one practice during four weeks of camp leading up to the first game. LET ME HAVE THIS.
Defensive MVP: Rod Perry
Offensive MVP: Vederian Lowe
OK, that was kind of boring. Yay, neat, a 6th-year OL and a 6th-year DL were the two best players in a drill where they were sometimes randomly lined up across from underclassmen. Hard-hitting breaking news.
Well, it means something to me, man. Finally, some pads poppin'.
It was only three bites of steak, but man, sooooo tasty.