Nebraska simplifies playcalling to speed up defensive readiness ahead of the Indiana game

Full Mickey Joseph press conference, Sept. 27


That’s how Nebraska coach Mickey Joseph described the final two-thirds of the Husker season, which begins Saturday night with a game against Indiana. NU stands 1-3

Nebraska took three days off – Thursday, Friday and Saturday – in an effort to give the players a physical and mental break. Defensive lineman Colton Feist, for example, played a four-man golf scramble at Iron Horse. He watched some college football, too. Safety Marques Buford went back home to Dallas to watch his younger brother’s football game. Joseph and many of the coaches went recruiting – Joseph to Louisiana, where he joked he ran into plenty of family and friends who had answers – and wanted jobs.

“Typical New Orleans,” Joseph said.

Players returned Sunday and went through a full-bore practice on Tuesday. The players, Joseph said, have bought in.

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“It was really good competition and we got after each other,” Joseph said. “And today, as we’re getting ready to play Indiana, I was happy with their effort today.”

New interim defensive coordinator Bill Busch “eliminated some things” from the defensive scheme, Joseph said, in an effort to simplify the D and perhaps get calls quicker. Nebraska is trying to use one word to describe everything that needs to be done on a given play.

Indiana runs a fast-paced tempo – similar to that of Georgia Southern – and NU defenders, Joseph said, have to be ready to get their eyes over to the sidelines to get play calls.

“One word’s got to tell you everything,” Joseph said. “Front, coverage, blitz. So we do a lot of one-word things. The linebackers really got to get the call from the sidelines, and the safeties have to get the signals so we can get going.”

Defensive tackle Colton Feist said Nebraska picked a good time to make a playcalling adjustment.

“You can just play faster if you know where you’re supposed to be and everything’s not so confusing,” Feist said, noting that the defensive line assignments have long been “pretty basic.” The linebackers and safeties have a trickier role.

Safety Marques Buford said the defense has far fewer checks and wrinkles.

“We’ll be matching tempo way better this week,” Buford said.

More notes

>>Left guard Kevin Williams got surgery on a high ankle sprain, Joseph said, and will miss two to three weeks. His replacement will be Ethan Piper, who has played plenty of guard.

>>Two true freshmen defensive backs, Jaeden Gould and Malcolm Hartzog, have “grown up pretty fast,” Buford said, landing this week on the depth chart. Neither has played much this season.

“He’s a tough kid from Mississippi that doesn’t blink,” Joseph said of Hartzog. “It’s not too big for him. He was a really good player coming out of high school. And he’s a smart kid. We’ve just got to get him reps.”

>>Joseph said he talks to Nebraska Athletic Director Trev Alberts every Sunday after games, just like Scott Frost did. He doesn’t talk to Alberts every day.

>>Nebraska is looking for either the punt return or kick return units to make a big play against IU. On punt return, NU “needs to hold up better on the outside.”

>>Joseph said he and the players can’t worry about “who the search firm is talking to” in the course of NU’s journey towards finding a new head coach.

“Nebraska deserves to have a national search,” Joseph said. “Our interview is right now. The next eight games. That’s your interview.”

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