Lincoln -- Nebraska Head Coach Bill Callahan met with the media Wednesday morning to talk about the start of spring drills for the Huskers. NU will begin its spring drills on March 24, while the annual Red/White game is slated for Saturday, April 17, at 12:30 p.m. Tickets for the game are available by calling 800-8-Big Red.
Head Coach Bill Callahan
"We are anxious and excited as a staff to get spring football underway. Just to capsulate the last two months, this has been a very productive and it is a very exciting, energizing time for our players and for us. We start spring football, Wednesday, March 24, and we will practice for four consecutive days. We will get in a full week of work on that first week back from spring break. As you know the rules, they only allow you 15 days of practice. They mandate three days of practice in shorts and mandate three scheduled scrimmages."
"Currently as a team, we have worked extremely hard in the off-season. Our players are very well motivated with a high work ethic. We have conditioning beginning at 6 a.m. each morning. We are basically putting them through station work and putting them through eight stations between four or five minutes. We are definitely taxing our players for the rigors of spring football. Again, the coaches have done a great job of preparing the team for spring football. We will reward our team tonight this evening with bowling with some camaraderie. It will be time to get together as a team and forget about football. It will focus on having some fun as we conclude this second week of conditioning. We want to come together as a team and this will provide an outlet to do this."
"This is really an abbreviated period in which we have to get a lot done. The coaches have done an excellent job of preparing for what we need to get done from a system standpoint in terms of implementing offense, scheduling installation days, and meeting times. That has all been coordinated and is ready to roll for the first week of practice."
"We are currently at 113 players for spring football. On the offensive side of the ball, we have eight tight ends, 20 offensive linemen, 18 wide receivers, four I-Backs, four quarterbacks and four fullbacks. We need a little bit more depth in the backfield and at wide receiver. On the defensive end, 18 defensive linemen, 11 linebackers, 18 defensive backs. We have 58 offensive players, 47 defensive players and eight specialists with 60 players on scholarship. We currently have 78 scholarship players with the class coming in and 53 walk-ons."
On the overall depth chart:
"Going into spring football, our roster and each position will be wide open for competition. Nothing has been earmarked or slated or defined as a starting position. It will be wide open with open competition throughout the spring. My philosophy about the depth chart very early on in the process is very simple: It is not how you line them, but it is how you wind them. Our players understand that philosophy and we should have great competition. We should have great drills and situations to put our players in in order to maximize and enhance the positions our players are in this spring. We are going to do everything we can to assess and evaluate the strength of our team and put the right players in the right positions for success.
"So far, I have been pleased with our work ethic. Again, it is hard as a staff to project how our players will do in the system in the new things that we have planned. We haven’t really had the opportunity to coach football yet, we have coached a lot of drill work. We haven’t isolated our team on fundamentals or techniques relative to the game itself. We haven’t had the ability to put the team in the huddle or break a huddle or put a team in a formation or break a formation or anything of that nature."
"As a new staff, you get penalized in a sense because you are put behind the eight-ball with the current rule situation. That is what we live with and our schedule is modified to the changes that we have to make. Again, our team has paid a tremendous price in the off season and as I have told them, it doesn’t guarantee them anything. It just allows us to compete with the other teams in the conference and this is what other teams around the Big 12 are doing. They are in station work. I feel good about where we are at and we are making progress. Our emphasis has been on strength and speed and will not disclose any information on testing. We still have three other phases of our football where our players will continue to grow physically and mentally."
On spring goals:
"First and foremost, we have to implement our structure and style of football. To do that, we will devote an hour a day from a unit standpoint implementing the structures of our defense and our offense and special teams in all three phases that is paramount. Secondly, we will learn how to practice smarter, faster and more physical. The practice structure will be different and it will be open to the media. You will see a difference in the way we practice. But that notion and standard of how we practice will be implemented with the speed of the game and the intelligence of the game in playing smart and playing physically.
"Thirdly, we want to be able to engrain our core fundamentals and techniques and that is essential as we start spring football with our current squad. It is important that we establish our rush systems early. By that I mean running the football on offense and stopping the ball on defense. That is where I have begun as a coach philosophically. I think if you are going to be a physical team, you have to have the ability stop the run defensively and run the ball offensively. Again we will establish our rush ends this spring and put an emphasis and premium on that. That goes hand in hand in ball security measures. I am a big fan of not turning the ball over and ball security. We will try to lock up the rock and do everything we can in terms of ball security measures on offense. Conversely, on defense, we will do everything we can to create turnovers. We will continue the success that we have had generating turnovers and it is the number one factor that determines wins and losses in college football and pro football."
In terms of pass protection, I think it is important when you begin implementing a new system that you test your pass protection. Our pressure pickups versus our pressure packages very early on in the spring. Very early on in practice, we will have what you call special category period where we will devote time specifically for base-split pickup so that we test our protection on a daily basis. If you don’t have the ability to protect the quarterback, then you don’t have a chance. We have to test that on an ongoing basis and we will set aside time for that."
"Situational football will be another area of emphasis on a daily basis. We will emphasize our short-yardage package, our goal-line package with a heavy emphasis on our red zone offense and scoring points in that critical area. We will continue emphasize and practice and hone in on. In addition, some other areas may not get as much area of time due to time constraints. This includes our backed up offense, two-minute offense, no huddle offense and our no back offense. We will try to get those things implemented as we move along in the process."
"Lastly, we want to be able to assess our players on a daily basis and make sure our players really adapt to the system and the system adapts to them. We have some great players who have some great characteristics. We will go ahead and work our system around what our players do best."
On Quarterbacks practicing with restricted contact during practice:
"We will put a green shirt on them and they will be protected. I think it is key that they have success and talking about the quarterback position and everything we do structurally is geared toward the quarterback. We want to get a great evaluation of the quarterback, but we never want to put them in a situation where they won’t have success. We prepare them in that realm, so if we have them engaged in a pressure drill we will be able to give them audibles in his hip pocket. Additionally, the pass game and run game is centered around what the quarterback can do best and what he can control and manufacture at the position."
On moving Defensive Linemen to offensive side of the ball:
"We moved a few defensive linemen from the defensive side of the ball over to the offensive side of the ball. How that will work out, we are very confident. There are a number of players that have moved. For example Chris Patrick who has been moved from defensive line to offensive line. We moved Jared Helming and Seppo over from D-line to O-line. When you are looking at big, thick, square bodies to enhance your blocking wall, those are the types of players who I have had success with in my past. I have had tremendous success with moving players over to the other side. I am very confident that the players who move over will be successful on that side."
On Richie Incognito playing center:
"Richie is an incredible athlete who has the ability to play all over the board. As players progress, backup linemen have the ability to step in and play different positions so much carries over. You have to be able to mix and match offensive linemen. This is not the day and age where you can say a player is locked into a position. So much carries over to each position. Secondly, in terms of Richie’s ability at center, we have made that move because of the success that is needed at that position. If we can control the nose then we can control the point and then we can do what we want in the zone game. Richie has the ability and versatility to control the attack from the inside."
On coaching college vs. pro football:
"Coaching is still coaching. I really believe that you have to be able to make plays and that is a constant. How you do that is what you emphasize in your system and what you practice. Those things don’t change and this is a staff that is very strong with depth and knowledge that is comparable to anyone within in this conference. I think our coaches will do a great job of conveying our message."
On watching clips:
"We haven’t sat down as an entire staff and diagnosed or delved into a lot of last year’s team. All I have done is make some clip tapes of particular players in order to watch certain players individually. I have looked at them individually, not collectively. I want to look at the players and see where they are at athletically."
On challenging for the Big 12 North Title:
"I think it is really early. It is premature to make a statement relative to that factor. We haven’t even seen them in pads yet. I am confident because these kids have worked hard and goals and standards remain high and that is our target as a team."
On option quarterbacks running the West Coast offense:
"Option athletes are what they are and they are athletic. They have the ability to throw the football and make plays. This will give them a different exposure and how quickly they will adapt to what we are doing will be key in their progress. Can they? We will see. As the fans watch the progress of the quarterbacks and watch the team, I think they will like what they see. It will be a work in progress to begin with. The rules really hinder a new staff who is trying to get the system off the ground."