N'Side the Huddle with Alonzo Whaley
The Nebraska football team conducts its fourth practice of fall camp tonight. The Huskers, who are in the midst of eight consecutive practices, will practice at night every day this week, a change from past fall camps.
Huskers.com caught up with Alonzo Whaley prior to Tuesday's practice to get his thoughts on the night practices and other aspects of Nebraska's fall camp.
As was the consensus following Monday night's practice, Whaley said the later practices have been a hit with the team.
"Everybody enjoys it, it's a lot cooler and you get a lot more down time during the day," Whaley said. "You have more meeting time during the day, but you get off your feet a lot more. When practice comes, guys are a lot more energized."
Whaley views the energized practices as beneficial because the fifth-year senior has noticed that his coaches and teammates are holding themselves to a higher standard this fall.
"The coaches (set the standard) but it also trickled down to us and taking control of our team," he said. "It's not about the coaches taking control, it's more about the players taking control and letting the coaches do their job. It trickles down from Coach Bo on down, but at the end of the day us players hold each other accountable to that standard."
Accountability and player involvement is key over the first few days of fall camp, when the defensive unit is expected to gel and learn schemes in a short period of time.
"We focus on the base things, learning the defense, knowing exactly what you need to do for your specific spot," Whaley said of early practices. "Once you get that down, you can learn the defense as a whole. Then you think like the defensive coordinator and then you think like the offensive coordinator. You have stages you need to reach to better yourself as a football player."
When it comes to reaching more stages, Whaley benefits from being one of three fifth-year seniors in the linebacking corps, along with Will Compton and Sean Fisher. Whaley said the trio's experience not only benefits each player individually, but also the linebacking group as a whole.
"Us three know the defense well enough...it allows us to become teachers and coaches to the younger guys," Whaley said. "We're coaching as well and teaching those younger guys so it helps us stay up to game on our parts on what we need to do."
That leadership and experience can also be a boost for first-year defensive coordinator John Papuchis. The nation's youngest solo defensive coordinator, Papuchis brings a different style to the Husker defense than in year's past, according to Whaley.
"What he brings to us is that calmness, he calms us down. But he also wants the best of you," Whaley said of Papuchis. "The thing he always comes back to is getting our swagger back that we had in 2009, 2010. He holds us to that standard rather than yelling and screaming. He keeps us calm, yet he wants the best out of us."
Don't be fooled by Whaley's word choice. For an individual who describes the "competition" as the best part of fall camp, Whaley hopes the preseason practices will simply be the "calm" before the Huskers take the Big Ten by storm this season.
"The standards (of this team) are higher than they've been over the course of the five years that I've been here," he said. "We have our minds set on a championship."
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