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Preseason camp 'really fun' for Chinander, whose defense is past the basics and onto complex equations
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Preseason camp 'really fun' for Chinander, whose defense is past the basics and onto complex equations

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Nebraska vs. Iowa, 11.27

Nebraska's Marquel Dismuke (left) and Luke Reimer tackle Iowa's Tyler Goodson (15) in the second half of a Nov. 28, 2020, game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.

Parker Gabriel and Steven M. Sipple break down the four most notable takeaways after hearing from the Nebraska football team.

Perhaps Erik Chinander forgot he was speaking with a room — or, well, a North Stadium concourse — full of reporters on Monday.

No, he didn’t reveal something about Nebraska’s scheme or provide bulletin board material to a Husker opponent.

He insinuated that maybe the folks in the room took more difficult math classes than he did during their school years. Most certainly, he was wrong.

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The point he set out to make, though, is that his veteran group doesn’t need to spend much time messing around with multiplication tables and flash cards during preseason camp. They’re right to the tough stuff.

“I feel like we’re not in general math anymore. We’re in whatever you guys took. I took general math 1 and 2. You probably took calculus or whatever. We’re there,” he said. “We’re getting these formulas figured out instead of 2+2. It’s really nice. You get to the install with the older guys and it’s almost like, ‘Seriously, we have to install this again?’ You have to do it for the rookies, but it feels different. It doesn’t feel like it’s Groundhog Day and you’re starting over every single day like it has sometimes in the past when you’re putting in a new system and you’re getting new players.

“It feels like we’ve already got the groundwork laid and now we’re putting on the trim and the singles and the details. That’s a good feeling for me.”

This is what Chinander and company have been building toward essentially since he arrived in December 2017. Nebraska by the end of the 2020 season felt like a veteran defense and the Huskers did have six or seven seniors on the field, but also several guys in the front seven playing full time for the first time.

Now, the only player who is definitely slotted into a starting role or significant rotational job is inside linebacker Chris Kolarevic, who played multiple seasons for a coaching staff at Northern Iowa that Chinander knows very well.

“It’s actually been really fun for me,” the coordinator said. “There are still some freshmen that have to get taught the basics, but a lot of the meetings, a lot of the installs, we’re talking about real football. We’re talking about situations. We’re talking about technique, we’re talking about detail. Instead of, ‘Ok, we’re putting in the defense, here’s your job, here’s what you do, let’s go play football.’ We’ve gotten to really detail things and we’ve gotten to talk about overall, global football knowledge, football formations, football plays and I think that’s really helped the older guys, especially, move their game to the next level.”

Outside linebackers coach Mike Dawson had an example at the ready. Junior Caleb Tannor arrived on campus as a highly regarded recruit and has played a lot over the past three seasons, but hasn’t had a consistent, game-changing type of impact. He had Jovan Dewitt as his position coach in 2018 and 2019, then Dawson last year, which Dawson likened to “learning a new language.”

Nebraska defensive coordinator Erik Chinander speaks during a news conference on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021.

“We’ve all heard the term, when you’re playing, if you’re thinking instead of playing, you stink because you’re going too slow,” Dawson said. “Being able to play fast and kind of know what you’re going to do before it even happens is going to allow these guys to play faster.

“There was a great conversation I was having with Caleb Tannor just coming off the field. A couple of things that happened today, last year he kind of would have hitched a little bit and instead he hit and knew exactly the situation, knew exactly the move and it went so fast that he was really difficult for those guys to try to block.”

For Chinander, the defense’s play-caller, familiarity and experience means he doesn’t have to worry about shuffling the deck, trying different combinations of players or making calls and adjustments on the fly because, theoretically, most of his players can follow along quickly.

“The biggest thing about that group is they all understand what we’ve tried to get done,” he said. “They’ve all been through the rigmarole for a while and they’re doing a really good job of making the plays they’re supposed to make right now.”

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


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Husker football reporter

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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