Randy York's N-Sider
One of Nebraska's most seasoned players was one of three seniors selected to represent the Huskers at Big Ten Media Days last Thursday and Friday in Chicago. Kyler Reed, a graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, Kan., was a solid interview for everyone who took the time to hear his take on the 2012 Huskers, and we found the fifth-year tight end particularly enlightening about why he sees Nebraska as a legitimate Big Ten Conference championship contender.
A quiet lead-by-example type similar to Rex Burkhead, Reed told the N-Sider he's in a rather large and tight camp of Bo-lievers who have bonded together with a singular mindset - Big Ten Championship or Bust. That's his term, not ours, and he lays the foundation brick-by-brick with descriptive insight, definitive actions and creative team-building from last winter, last spring and this summer, preparing his case for what he expects to happen this fall. "At Nebraska, it's always going to be a goal to win conference championships," Reed said. "We all know it's time ... it's time that we finally do something big here at Nebraska. It's been too long."
Please join an N-Sider conversation with Reed to get the essence of his public acknowledgment of a certain goal that has been set in stone.
Q: It's been a productive and fast-moving summer for the program. What do you see as the highlights of June and July?
A: The highlight would definitely be the team cookout. We had a huge part of the guys who went out to Branched Oak Lake, and it was a lot of fun. There was a lot of food, and there were a lot of freshmen involved. It was a really good chemistry-building kind of thing for everyone there. It wasn't football-related but it was team-related, so it was still very important. We've trained really hard, and Coach (James) Dobson has a good plan. We've been doing things a little different this year. Coach Dobson is always looking for new ways to train, and he's always researching for ways to help us get bigger and stronger and faster. I think this entire team has really done a great job of coming together and focusing on what we need to do. It doesn't matter if it is110 degrees outside and 120 on the turf, our goal every day was to be perfect. We're not perfect every day, but that's still our goal. I like what we got done. We're doing a lot of things different. We're lifting less, and we're running more. When I say we're lifting less, I mean we're lifting less days, not in the amount of lifting itself. We're still getting in a good amount of lifting. It's just one of our lift days is longer. We've also run more, especially earlier in the summer. Coach Dobson believes you can't over-train, and I agree. When you lift more, you get to pull back your running. We've changed our running in a couple of different ways. We took out some of the stuff we did last year and replaced it with what we call drive training, which simulates an actual drive in a game. It's completely new and helps you build different types of sprints and pushing sleds, trying to emulate an actual drive you would have during the course of a game. So the intervals are different than what we've had. It's a 40-second clock, so the plays - and the drive training - start between 15 and 35 seconds. Just like in a game, we don't know what our rest intervals are going to be, but the coaches know them, and it can change depending on the situation. Training like that can help us play a fast-paced offense or we can go up to the line and slow it down. It might be longer between each rep or we might go back to something quick and get that done and get ready for the next one right away. You don't know how quick it's going to be, but Coach (Tim) Beck knows how fast it's going to go, so we're adjusting to what he wants, even though we're practicing with the strength and conditioning staff. Our attitude is unbelievable and I think the Navy Seals meeting in the off-season has made a big difference in the way we look at everything. It's really about being a good teammate. That's what they stressed during the time we spent with them. Good teammates hold each other accountable and hold each other to high standards. That's really what we've been doing all summer. We don't accept missed times or less than great conditioning - from anyone.
Q: How can you meet that standard for an entire football team?
A: Obviously, when we have 150 dudes, some are probably going to miss a time or two throughout the course of the summer and when that happens, the team suffers from it. In the past, the individual was the one who suffered and he had to do a little extra because of it. Now, the leaders of the team actually have to do more because of each individual's mistake. That's how we define accountability now. We are also accountable as leaders as well as individuals actually. That's what the military guys really stressed - be a good teammate and be accountable. It sounds so simple, but it is so hard to learn because you don't necessarily want to be accountable for other people. You just want to worry about yourself. When you think about, it's not only hard to learn in football; it's hard to learn in life in general.
Q: With multiple levels of accountability, are you in the best physical shape of your life?
A: I would say yes, but it's really hard to tell. I'm definitely stronger than I've ever been. That's one thing we can measure. It's one thing to be in great shape, but you can't really get in the shape you need to be in until you start practicing. You can run as hard as you can and practice the tempo you think you need, but it's different in conditioning than it is in practice. Until you have a guy who's pulling on you and pushing on you every time every play in practice, you don't know what kind of shape you're in. You hear about being in football shape and basketball shape. Well, it's true. They're different, and it takes me a week just to get used to practice and only after that week can I tell myself or anyone else that I'm in great football shape.
Q: What are you expecting this year, individually, team-wise and otherwise?
A: No. 1, I expect to be a leader because I've been called to be a leader by the team. I'm a fifth-year senior with a great amount of starting experience. I had a very good sophomore year when I was healthy. I produced good numbers, and I was a good leader. Our team goal is to win a Big Ten championship. Right after the bowl game we had a meeting, and it wasn't we want to win it, it was we're going to win the Big Ten championship, and if you want to be a part of it, you can be a part of it. If not, you know, the door's right there. So, we've set a high standard. Coach Bo (Pelini) has set a high standard, and I think our players have really been striving hard to live up to that high standard throughout this whole summer. I know you can ask any senior, and he'll tell you that our mindset is Big Ten Championship or Bust. I'm never going to say our season is a waste if that doesn't happen, but that is definitely the goal ... for everyone.
Q: Exactly when did you set that high standard in stone?
A: It was obviously a while after the (Capital One) bowl game. We all got home and got to finish out the holiday break with our families. School didn't even start until a week or so after that. Bo did not try to rush us back into the meeting room. He wanted us to take a few weeks off and let our bodies heal. Then we got into winter training. Then we started having more meetings. The high standard had its own time frame. Guys were so sore and kind of lost for awhile. The goal probably wasn't finalized until late January or early February. It was a small meeting and not very long. That's how we wanted to put it out there - plain and simple. We had a goal to go out a winner ... just win the Big Ten! Whatever happens BCS-wise, that's out of our control. Just win the Big Ten!! We were so close (to winning a conference title) our last two years in the Big 12. We all knew we have to find the little things and correct them, and we all understood it would make a big difference.
Q: What do you think Nebraska learned the most in its first year in the Big Ten?
A: Well, I won't say it was a shock physically, but it is very different from the Big 12. I'm not saying the Big 12 is not physical. But it's a different type of play - more run-oriented. I will also say the Big Ten has bigger guys generally. The Big 12 has a lot of speed. There's a difference, so we've had to adjust. I think the Big Ten is a little more physical through the whole schedule. It's more of a grind (top to bottom). So I think what we actually learned didn't really have a lot to do with the Big Ten. I think our mistakes came from us, and they were the same mistakes that we made in the Big 12, so it's always been on us in terms of turnovers and penalties, even though the Big Ten caused more turnovers, and the difference in the style of play was probably a factor.
Q: How does Nebraska's offense fit in with a Big Ten type of offense?
A: I think our quicker offense will give Big Ten teams something they'll have to work on. They'll know how to adjust but it's going to depend on how quickly we move. I don't know if they're ready for that up-tempo offense. You don't know how much you can shock people. Football is just football. We have big guys; they have big guys. We have the spread; they have the spread. It's going to be a high level of football in the Big Ten just like it would be in any other conference.
Q: You joined Rex Burkhead and Will Compton as the three Husker player representatives for the Big Ten Media Days in Chicago. What kind of leaders are they and are they in your Big Ten Championship or Bust crowd?
A: They're different kinds of leaders. Will is a very vocal guy - always has been since he got here on campus. Rex is more along my lines. We're not as vocal as a Will Compton-type of guy or a Ben Cotton-type guy. We're more lead-by-example-type players, but we understand that the team is calling us to be leaders. Rex is the kind of dude you can watch and see how he does things, and he can lead you without even saying a word just because of how he plays and how he practices and what he does off the field. Will and Rex are both great leaders in my mind, but in very different ways. Rex is becoming a more vocal leader as he's been taught to be. Before Chicago, I hadn't even talked to either one about the Big Ten Championship or Bust but we're all in with Coach Bo about what the goal is and how we're going to go about achieving it. Bo has set that goal and you're either with it or not and obviously as seniors we are definitely with that goal. Will Compton will do anything for this team. Same with Rex. It's so easy for them to buy into what Coach Bo is saying. I guarantee that's their mindset and mine as well. We haven't said: "Hey guys, we're going to win the Big Ten or our season is going to be worthless." We have not said that. But I think it is more of a goal this year than it has ever been. At Nebraska, it's always going to be a goal to win conference championships. We haven't focused on it as much as we need to win this. But we all know it's time ... it's time that we finally do something big here at Nebraska. It's been too long."
Q: Do you know how long it's been since Nebraska won a conference football championship?
A: Was it 2001?
Q: Would you believe 1999?
A: That was my first guess that came to mind, and I really should have stayed with it. I almost said: "It was before 2001, wasn't it?"
Q: What's the biggest thing this team has going that can put Nebraska back on a championship track?
A: I'm not into making predictions. The way it stands, everyone is on board, and everyone is willing to do the little things it takes to win. We haven't even practiced yet, but I just have a feeling about this team. This is our second year in Coach Beck's offense, and this is our second year running it after only a few seniors are leaving from last year's team. Hopefully, with an intact offense, I don't know what the predictions of our offense will be, but I personally think we're going to be great on offense this year. I think we're going to learn from our mistakes, and we're going to see how badly our turnovers cost us last year. When we cut those down, I think we're going to vastly improve our passing game. We put a big focus on it in spring ball, and I think we made a big step forward there. I think Taylor (Martinez) has made great improvements in reading the defense and in distributing the ball. I think our passing game will be very improved, and I think that might surprise some people doubting what we can do through the air. That's also what we need honestly. We can't win the Big Ten with just our running game. We can't rely just on Rex to get us through all our games. I mean, Rex is a great player, but it's hard to run the ball through a nine-man box the whole game. Coach Beck told us last spring that we have to throw the ball this fall, and I think we'll be able to do that. I think we really will throw the ball!
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