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At youth camp, Nebraska football players predict big season in 2022

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Nebraska’s Nash Hutmacher lines up during an April 7, 2021, spring practice at the Hawks Championship Center.

Nebraska receiver Elliott Brown knows a lot about the 1990s Huskers. His dad, Lance, was part of the 1995 and 1997 teams. 

It's been 25 years since the last title in '97, and Elliott knows it's not the '90s anymore. 

"But I’m telling you right now fans are going to be excited for our team this year," he said. 

The Husker redshirt freshman was hosting the first of three "The Camp" events that give second to eighth graders the chance to perform drills, relays, scrimmage and interact with other Husker players. The Camp will have sessions Monday and Wednesday at Elkhorn South, as well. 

Brown participated in similar camps when he was a child and appreciated the memories that came with them. Brown and several other Huskers hosted hundreds of kids, giving out T-shirts, awards and autographs.

“Now that I’m a Husker living my dream, I want to be able to give back and do the same thing for these kids,” Brown said.

Besides Brown, defensive lineman Nash Hutmacher and outside linebacker Garrett Nelson also served as “coaches” for the event.

“Having fun with the kids, that’s the biggest part of it,” Hutmacher said. 

For the upcoming season, Hutmacher expects a winning team. And for Brown, he thinks this is the best offseason the team has ever had. They’ve been cleaning up the mental mistakes and staying disciplined.

“We’ve tightened down," Brown said. "Our leadership is phenomenal. We’re making sure everyone is on the same page for workouts and drills. Basically, everything that the small details affect, we’re on it.”

The Huskers (3-9, 1-8) had a lot of “small mistakes” last year that cost them many games, Brown said. The team lost all nine of their games by single digits, eight by a single possession.

“We don’t want to write the same story that we had last year with the tight games,” Nelson said. “Being in college for a few years now, we’ve just never been a winning team, trying to get that tradition back. Getting that spark reignited is huge.”

On the defensive end, the team brought in defensive lineman Ochaun Mathis and Stephon Wynn Jr. from TCU and Alabama, respectively, which Hutmacher said that though there is a competition for playing time, the additions were “needed” as they were “thin room” in that position.

This offseason, Nelson has focused on his speed and pass-rushing around the edge. Last season, the team finished 12th in the Big Ten with 20 total sacks and tied for 98th nationally with 1.67 per game. The team was in the top third in scoring defense, conceding under 23 points per game.

Hutmacher said he has been meshing well with the older guys, improving their speed and strength on the defensive end. Hutmacher now benches 500 pounds, squats 800 pounds and is power cleaning over 405 pounds.

“I think some of us younger guys are really going to step up this year and I’m excited to see how the defensive (line) develops,” Hutmacher said. “

Another question remains in the quarterback spot and the offense.

Adrian Martinez transferred to Kansas State, but Nebraska brought in transfers Casey Thompson (Texas) and Chubba Purdy (Florida State). The Huskers also return Logan Smothers.

Last year, the Huskers’ 266 passing yards per game were fifth best in the conference, though the majority of that production came from Martinez. The team also averaged just under 28 points per game.

There was also an overhaul in the offensive coaching staff — offensive coordinator, quarterbacks, wide receivers and offensive line coaches all changed from last year.

Brown said there isn’t a definitive starter for quarterback at the moment. Regardless, he’s confident in any option that the team has.

“It’s going to come down to fall camp and it’s going to come down to little things," Brown said, "but I don’t have any doubt in my mind that any of those quarterbacks can come out and lead us to victory."


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