Conversations with subject-matter experts are typically enlightening.
So when a reporter finds himself surrounded by one or several Nebraska defensive linemen, there’s a natural topic of discussion: food.
It comes as no surprise that quantity has never been much of an issue. Carlos Davis is listed at 6-foot-2 and 325 pounds. DaiShon Neal: 6-7, 310. Damion Daniels: 6-3, 340.
On Thursday, Daniels pegged the number at 335 before some haggling among his teammates resulted in a settlement at 338. What's two or three ribeyes among friends?
And you can understand why the intake is enormous. Nebraska football players are spending multiple hours per day between the practice fields and the weight room, especially now that fall camp is off and running.
It’s the quality of all that food, though, that they agree has changed radically over the past eight months.
“Last year our eating choices weren’t the best and that goes for a lot of us,” said junior Khalil Davis, listed at comparatively svelte 6-2 and 310.
As he was talking in a sixth-floor hallway at Memorial Stadium, others started to congregate. Daniels and Carlos Davis. Then Neal.
“Especially that one,” Khalil alleged, a smile beginning to crease as he pointed at Daniels, a redshirt freshman from Bishop Dunne High in Dallas. “He used to do crazy stuff. Crazy stuff.”
“Stop,” Daniels said.
“I don’t want to say what it was, but we’ve made much better eating choices,” Khalil Davis said. “(Daniels) stopped eating the pizza boxes with the full pizza. The large, extra large. He’s at a medium now.”
All joking aside, the group swears by the difference.
Husker football players eat three meals a day at the school’s training table. Attendance is mandatory. The coaches, they say, will know if you skip out.
Before Frost and his staff arrived, NU players ate at training table twice a day. But, several of the defensive linemen said, it wasn’t a big deal if they didn’t show up. They’d find themselves more often somewhere on East Campus or at any number of local establishments.
Burgers the size of an interior lineman’s back, one recalled. Tater tots and ice cream, maybe or maybe not consumed at the same time, depending on who you believe.
Let’s not make any mistakes about it: We’re not exactly talking about counting carbs under the new regime. These guys still put it away.
“We’ve just (made) health choices better and we don’t eat out nearly as much,” Khalil Davis said. “They gave us Hy-Vee cards to go shop for good food instead of bad food.”
In the spring, Carlos Davis said he woke up hours before practice started to ensure he had time to eat a good breakfast. Neal talked about eating six meals per day, “with a lot of grilled chicken and rice, vegetables, protein, all that type of good stuff.”
The results look like this: Neal is listed 35 pounds heavier than he was last year. Carlos Davis and Daniels, 30 each. Khalil Davis, 20. Others like Mick Stoltenberg, Freedom Akinmoladun, Ben Stille and Peyton Newell are all listed as gainers, too.
“I would say the biggest change with that is that a lot of people did gain that 20 to 30 pounds, and some of us took the health part a lot stronger and we got a lot stronger because of it,” Khalil Davis said. “That’s because of Zach Duval and what he did and what we’ve done over the summer. We’ve really changed our bodies.”
Now the question is how it translates to the field. Sunday is the first day of full pads at Husker preseason camp. The season opener is less than four weeks away.
For Daniels, that will mark his first opportunity for live collegiate snaps after sitting out 2017. Mike Riley’s staff said they thought Daniels could have played, but they had enough depth up front.
“I’ve seen him do some things where it’s just like, ‘Oh, my God,’” Stoltenberg said late last month. “There was one play, I think it was last spring, where he pushed the center all the way into the running back. It was just one of those big-man plays. It takes a big boy to do some of that stuff.”
To an untrained eye, Daniels looks as different physically as any player on the roster. But perhaps his teammates’ joking backs up that notion.
“He’s beef. Grade A, like that 90 percent lean meat,” Khalil Davis said, drawing laughter among the position mates. “340 lean. There’s a lot of 340-pounders that don’t look like him.”