Let's hop in the car and deliver some leftover deep dish from Big Ten Media Days in Chicago last week. 

1. Count senior inside linebacker Mohamed Barry among those who think both junior inside linebackers, Collin Miller and Will Honas, will take big steps forward this fall.

Miller only moved to the inside around this time last year and spent much of the fall well behind the others in terms of footwork, technique and detail. He essentially worked his way onto the field in sub-package situations because of his natural ability and what he could learn on the fly.

“He would tell you himself that he just feels smarter and more confident in what he does,” Barry said. “Just getting in that linebacker stance a million times makes me feel better about playing linebacker. When I came (to Nebraska) here, I had (been) playing that DB position my senior year where I was always in that apex alignment, and to go back into freshman year and to have to be a 4-3 linebacker and get all low and weird like that and read pulling guards and stuff like that, it was weird for me.

“For him to pick him it up as quick as he has, it’s impressive.”

As for Honas, who missed all but four games after suffering a knee injury in September against Michigan, Barry listed him while rattling off a long line of players who "feel like they have statements to make."

2. One of the many differences between present day and when head coach Scott Frost played at Nebraska in the 1990s is that, back then, the school made public players’ weight room testing information.

"It was in your guys’ papers every year, twice a year," Frost said. "... It was competitive, it was impressive and it was a big deal.”

If Frost and head strength coach Zach Duval have their way, that may actually happen again, and sooner rather than later.

"I don’t think Zach felt like we were in a position where we could make that public yet, but we’re really close to that now,” Frost said. “Some of the numbers I’m seeing out of the weight room right now, it’s night and day different from when we arrived. It’s going to make a big difference.”

Frost said a big chunk of the defensive line room now does two repetitions of back squats at 800-plus pounds.

“If you walked in our weight room and saw our team right now compared to where it was a year ago, some of the kids don’t even look like the same kids,” Frost said. “We’re starting to look how a Nebraska football team is supposed to look. We’re starting to run like a Nebraska team is supposed to run.

“Bigger, faster, stronger never hurt anything.”

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3. Barry was asked an interesting question about if he sensed that last year’s group hated losing more than previous teams he had been on, and he gave an even more interesting response.

“People always say that they hate losing, that they don’t like losing, but it’s more that we were obsessed with winning,” he said. … “If we just hated losing, we would have shut down after losing six or whatnot games. We would have just shut down if we hated losing. But we was ready to win that game, and we was ready to win other games. We came in after a loss and it was, 'OK, reset, let’s go.'

“We were obsessed with winning and now we’re even more in love with how it sounds to be in Indianapolis. We’re in love with the process, with the discipline, with the tradeoff that we have to do to get to that game.”

4. Frost has said several times since arriving in Lincoln that the most likely determining factor on whether a true freshman is ready to play is not talent — the idea is that NU doesn’t recruit kids who aren’t talented enough to play early in their careers — but rather their approach to practice and whether they’re able to jump in at full speed.

Even though freshman back Wan’Dale Robinson was limited by a minor hamstring injury this spring and did not participate in the Red-White Spring Game, Frost counts him squarely in that camp.

“Wan’Dale, first day of spring practice, looked like we expected him to look,” Frost said. “It’s different for those guys that come in and enroll early. They get that out of their system spring semester and they’re way ahead for a knowledge standpoint than the guys that come in this semester. A lot of these guys that came in this summer have a chance to help us, too.”

5. It remains to be seen if either of the true freshmen at outside linebacker — Scottsbluff native Garrett Nelson (an early enrollee) and summer arrival Jamin Graham — can make a run at real playing time right from the start, but Frost didn’t shy away from the importance of someone emerging at the position.

“Outside backer is a key for us,” Frost said. “JoJo (Domann) did some great things for us last year, and I think he’s keyed up to have a really productive and great season for us. Alex Davis has made a bunch of improvements. We’ve got some young guys that I think are really going to help at that position. Obviously (Tyrin Ferguson) has a ton of experience there.

“We need those guys to set edges for us, be physical for us and create some pass-rush for us. That’s an area where if we get better, it’s going to make us a much better team.”

Frost isn’t the only one who’s seen change from Davis, the senior from Florida who’s played a lot but finished last year with just four tackles.

“Now he moves like lightning and he’s flipping his hips and he’s going through offensive linemen like a knife on butter,” Barry said.

6. Barry at one point was discussing what it was like to play in NU’s defense in 2017 under Bob Diaco and essentially said it was a frustrating experience because it involved too much passive play.

“When you’re a linebacker, you want to get him at the line or behind the line,” he said. “And when you spill a block, you want to spill the block and mess up the entire play. That’s what you want to do. You want to destroy folks. It’s as simple as that. The linebacker position has not changed that much. We want the action.”

Contact the writer at pgabriel@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.


Sports writer

Parker joined the Journal Star as the University of Nebraska football beat writer in August 2017. He previously covered Montana State athletics for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2012.

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