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One of the highlights of Bo Pelini's Football 202 Class this week was a panel of 10 Husker players fielding questions from 200 fans who paid to get the inside scoop on Nebraska football. Nebraska Assistant Athletic Director Jeff Jamrog put together the program, selected the panel and hosted the all-day event. A former Husker walk-on and Academic All-American, Jamrog couldn't resist asking three players on the panel about Nebraska's two newest assistant coaches - Terry Joseph, who left Tennessee to coach NU's secondary and Rick Kaczenski, who left Iowa to coach the Huskers' defensive line. Both new coaches received positive player feedback.
When P.J. Smith was asked for his take on Joseph, Nebraska's senior safety was effusive in his praise. "Terry Joseph is one of a kind," Smith told the 202 class in the Nebraska Football Auditorium. "He's all work, but he brings so much to the table. He's really changed a lot of things up. For him, it's about family and teamwork, and we just like the way he explains the game and breaks it down for us. I've learned a lot already from him. He's a funny guy and passionate about the game. He's a good story-teller and has one every single day. He tries to test everybody every day, and we've never had that before. It's a 15-second test, and you have to think fast. By the end of the week, whoever has the lowest grade has to clean the locker room or something like that."
The rest of the panel roared, remembering, perhaps, how something so simple can motivate Nebraska's secondary to accelerate their thinking and sharpen their performance. Junior cornerback Andrew Green reinforced Smith's comments and explained why he thinks Joseph has stabilized the secondary and used his insight to build relationships, recruit, teach, communicate, lead, unify and coach. "I just really like Coach Joseph," Green said. "I like his discipline and the way he brings us together as one unit. He's really smart in the way he teaches, and it's going to make a big difference for us."
And that brings us to Jason Ankrah, a junior defensive end urged by his fellow panelists to describe his first trip to Lincoln. Arriving late on his 2008 recruiting trip from Maryland, Ankrah's first Tunnel Walk experience was both amazing and surprising. So we digress to explain how he ended up following Nebraska's captains onto the field for the first time and kept hearing Big Red fans shout out his name from the tunnel to the sideline. What he didn't tell the avid Nebraska Football 202 listeners was how he suspected his grand entrance was a planned recruiting event. He didn't learn until later that Husker fans are so loyal and follow recruiting so closely that their cheers were spontaneous because they recognized him instantly and wanted him to know much they cared. Well, four years later, Ankrah cares so much about Nebraska himself that he couldn't lie when Jamrog asked him about playing for Kaczinski, a.k.a. "Coach Kaz."
"Coach Kaz?" Ankrah said, repeating the question before bridging to his answer. "Man, he's a hard-nosed dude!" Ankrah said. After a roomful of laughter subsided, he elaborated. "He (Coach Kaz) actually coached us in the (Capital One) bowl game," Ankrah said. "He's our defensive line coach, but the linebackers love him, and the DBs (defensive backs) love him, too. He's hard-nosed, but he's a funny guy. If you don't know him, he's black and white. He doesn't favor anybody. He wants the D-line to spread out and play. He makes what he knows very interesting. When he's watching film, he'll tell all of us, whether we're starters or not, that he's starting with a blank slate." Because of leaders like Coach Kaz, "I'm excited about this year," Ankrah said. "Everybody is!"
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