The Nebraska football team returned to the practice field Thursday with a 1 1/2-hour workout inside the Hawks Championship Center. Offensive Coordinator Shawn Watson said the Huskers were eager to start preparing for the Clemson Tigers, whom the Huskers will face in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 1.

“Today, for the veterans, was nice because they’ve been wanting to move on to Clemson,” Watson said. “They’ve been playing against our defense. Today there was just more excitement in the practice because they were preparing for an opponent that they have a lot of respect for.”

In particular, the Huskers have respect for the Tigers’ defense, which ranks 17th in the nation in total defense, allowing 295 ypg, and 10th in the nation in scoring defense, surrendering just 16.6 ppg.

“They’re really good,” Watson said. “Really they have two great safeties. I think they have a weakside linebacker who’s played really good football for them this year. Their defensive line is really good. They’ve got some nice ends and the two inside guys are the heart and soul of their defense.”

Despite the game being 21 days away, Watson said the Huskers have maintained a positive energy level at practice.

“Everybody’s fresh. The guys wanted to be here, so their attention is with us,” Watson said. “They’re hungry to play again. They’re having fun this year. This has been a great year for us. It’s not been hard at all to keep their attention and their focus because this is what they wanted.”

Nebraska practices again Friday afternoon.