Nebraska will open spring football on Wednesday with the first of 15 spring practices. Head Coach Bill Callahan and a handful of Husker players met the media on Tuesday to discuss the start of spring ball. Below are some of Callahan's comments from the press gathering.

Head Coach Bill Callahan

Opening statement

“We’re anxious and excited to get going again. We’ve had a really productive offseason. Our players have conditioned very hard under the direction of (head strength coach) Dave Kennedy, who’s done an excellent job of preparing the team for spring. Just generally speaking, our players are really excited about spring ball.

 

“We’ve had the opportunity to meet with them the past two days at 6:30 in the morning. It was bright and early, but they responded extremely well, and they’re very excited about hitting the field tomorrow, and it should be fun. They’ve worked hard, not only in conditioning, but in video review. They’ve had an opportunity to go back and to review their video and their plays and their performance from last year. I thought that was extremely productive for them, as individuals as well as a team and as a unit. Just to get back into football, to refine their techniques, and to refine themselves.”

 

On the biggest concerns with the offense

“I don’t think it’s a concern. It’s more of a challenge than a concern. There is great competition across the board. At the quarterback position, between (junior quarterbacks) Beau (Davis) and Joey (Ganz) and (senior quarterback) Sam (Keller), all three of those players are really adept at that position, and highly skilled. And of course we also have a youngster by the name of (incoming freshman quarterback) Patrick Witt, and that’s a real advantage for us.

 

“But the concern is not that, it’s the challenge of competing on a high and consistent level, and I think that’s the objective as we head into the spring. I think we’ve got the nucleus of our offensive line returned, and a good solid group of tight ends, a very experienced wide receiver corps, and our running back situation is a little different, but I’m optimistic that (junior I-backs) Marlon (Lucky) and Cody (Glenn), and (senior I-back) Kenny (Wilson), when he gets his health back, will all be viable assets to our offense this spring.”

 

On whether the quarterback position will be decided during the spring

“I told the team, we’re just going to compete this spring. There are really not enough practices in the spring to really come out and say which is the guy at the quarterback position. I hope it is, but we’re certainly not going to put a timeline on it. We’ll name the starter the week before the opening game, because there are just so many things that can happen in the spring and the summer and the months leading up to the season. So we’re going to let the kids compete.”

 

On whether the job is senior quarterback Sam Keller’s to lose

“I think that people naturally look at this as a two-horse race, and it certainly isn’t even that. I think that Beau Davis has a lot of great attributes that have really been kept in the dark the past two seasons. His performance in his rookie year was really an unfair performance because it was really too soon. He has talent, he has mobility, and a good arm, and has been in this system going on his fourth year, so I think that has some merit. If you look at the successful quarterbacks around the country that have performed at a high level, it usually takes awhile to get to that level. So I don’t want to discount any of the guys in the quarterback race.”

 

On what senior quarterback Sam Keller brings to the offense

“I think he’s very competitive, and I think all those guys are. These guys love football and they love to compete. They’re smart guys and they’re dependable. We just keep coming back to the same thing, which is to look for smart guys that are dependable guys, and all three of them have that attribute.”

 

On what the future looks like for the defensive line

“We graduated some outstanding players, and that’s not to say that the upcoming players will not be outstanding. I think (sophomore defensive lineman Ndamukong) Suh has a chance to be an all-league performer, I think (junior defensive lineman Ty) Steinkuhler is coming into his own. I look at our end position, and unfortunately (junior defensive end) Barry Turner will be out this spring, but he is a top end when compared with other guys around the country. I think (junior linebacker) Clayton Sievers moving positions should provide us some depth and intrigue in regards to what he can do with a full-time position. And of course (junior defensive end) Zach Potter is a guy that has  been around for a couple of years and has only gotten bigger and stronger, so we’re changing him really from a base-five technique to a base-six technique, so that should really tie in to his strengths as a player. And of course (redshirt freshman defensive lineman) Pierre Allen, we have a lot of respect for him with what he’s done to reshape his body to recommit himself as well. There are three outstanding walk-ons, also—Andy Polousky, Tom Rice and Tony Sullivan. Those three guys have given us a lot of help on the scout team.”

 

On the strengths of senior linebacker Bo Ruud

“Well we think Bo is an excellent athlete who plays at a high consistent level. He plays the pass well, and has a good feel for where receivers are at. All of his pass defense has been very good. We love his versatility and the fact that he’s a player that can do a lot of things.”

 

On what communication he will have with new offensive coordinator Shawn Watson on gameday

“(Offensive coordinator) Shawn (Watson) will be up in the press box, and he and I have a good line of communication, as I do with all the assistant coaches. I have the ability to talk to anybody on the offense. I have direct communication with Shawn (Watson), and we’re on the same page, there’s no question about that, in terms of how we see the game. We always talk philosophically about how we see a certain game, play, or scheme, and we’ve had great dialogue about our mechanics and the corrections we would make in scenarios we may see again. So just having that dialogue will help to give us some success in the fall. Having these talks allows us to feed off of each other, so we know what a coach is feeling and going off of in certain situations.”

 

On sophomore defensive back Major Culbert practicing at the I-back position

“I think we’re in a pretty good position from a depth perspective. Kenny Wilson will not participate this spring, he is rehabbing, and Cody Glenn will be a day-to-day prospect. All the stress that’s associated with a foot injury really becomes a day-to-day thing. But (sophomore defensive back) Major (Culbert) will be a factor in the backfield, and we’re very fortunate that we have the opportunity to work him into the practice in that position. He worked in that spot in our preparation against Auburn, and I think there will be some recollection from the time he spent preparing that week. He by no means feels he is being hindered as a defensive back, and we appreciate the fact that he is a selfless individual that wants to do this for the team.”

 

On the importance of finding new leaders to take over for this team

“I think that everybody has the opportunity to become a leader, and you earn that by being dependable to your team and your teammates. I do think there is a group of guys at each level on the team that have shown us leadership abilities. We certainly count on that senior leadership, and we’ve empowered them to lead our team, and part of their leadership is to empower those beneath them. As we go on throughout the spring, we’ll see more leaders emerge as we get into more competitive situations. Overall, off the field, I think we’ve had some tremendous leadership this offseason.”

 

On whether having his own recruits makes it easier as time has gone on

“I think it gets easier when you have players you’ve had under your direction for a few years. It gives us an opportunity to grow together, and that’s where we’re at with this football team, we’ve grown together for three, some four years. You always want that opportunity to have that continuity, and that’s a key factor for us at this point.”

 

On the players that will not participate in the spring practices

“(Redshirt freshman defensive tackle) Seth Jensen may come back to the team next week or this weekend. He’ll be able to do some things on a limited basis. (Sophomore offensive lineman) Jake Hickman had his knee surgically repaired during the bowl practices. (Junior offensive lineman) Mike Huff will be out for the spring, (sophomore quarterback) Zac Lee, our quarterback from junior college, is rehabbing right now.  Yesterday was his first day of running, but he will not be doing team-related drills yet. He will be able to throw individually, and we’re really excited to get to see him out there making throws. (Redshirt freshman tight end) Mike McNeill will be out this spring. We really wanted to evaluate him because he has some real promise that could add to the dimension in our tight end group. (Sophomore defensive lineman) Craig Roark will be out this spring, as well as (senior fullback) Matt Senske, (senior I-back) Kenny Wilson and (sophomore defensive back) Corey Young.”