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Husker football spring practice, 3/28

Nebraska defensive coordinator Bob Diaco (left) works with the punters during spring football practice on Tuesday at Hawks Championship Center.

The Bobs both know what Scott Booker is all about.

After all, Nebraska defensive coordinator Bob Diaco and safeties coach Bob Elliott coached with him at Notre Dame.

So when they were asked their opinion about possibly bringing Booker to Lincoln in a consulting role, "both of us had good things to say," Elliott said.

Booker was recently hired as a special teams consultant for the Huskers after spending the past five years as a full-time assistant for the Irish, coaching tight ends and special teams.

"We were obviously all over it once we knew they were interested in him," Elliott said of the Huskers adding Booker. "Because I think he's perfect for what he's trying to do."

While the specifics of Booker's role haven't been explained by Husker head coach Mike Riley, Elliott said the new hire is full of energy and was a really good recruiter at Notre Dame.

"Great guy, great person, great father and family man," Elliott said. "Very, very good with the X's and O's of special teams. And he's good with drill work and he understands how it goes from fundamentals to drill work, then to team. He knows how the progression goes. I mean, he's really good. We're lucky to have him in the consulting role that he plays."

Back at it: The Huskers returned from a 12-day break, and the coaches — and players — looked fresh and ready to go, according to Diaco.

"We got a chance to get back together, and (the players) were really looking forward to it," he said. "The coaches are always looking forward to it. We felt it reciprocate back from player to coach, which is nice."

Diaco said the players were clearly locked in during Tuesday's practice at Hawks Championship Center.

As for the progress of NU's implementation of the 3-4 defense, Diaco said he's seeing growth.

"I feel like we are putting another coat of paint on, and that's exciting," he said.

Young's dedication: Junior inside linebacker Dedrick Young enjoyed a nice spring break back home in Peoria, Arizona.

But it wasn't like he totally cleared his mind of football.

"You still have to stay in it," he said. "It's still a job. You still look at the playbook, still watch film (on an iPad). You still have to keep doing your workouts and all that. They gave us a workout plan — our lifts and our runs."

The 6-foot-1 Young, listed at 220 pounds last season as a WILL linebacker, is up to 230.

"You have to be a little bit bigger to play inside," he said. "Whatever I need to do to help the team is fine with me."

Winter challenge: Husker defensive line coach John Parrella said his whole group "had to get bigger, stronger and faster" during winter conditioning.

"You're playing in the Big Ten. You're playing big-time Division I football," the coach said. "We can get away with undersized guys, don't get me wrong. Technique can take you a ways. But if you've got the time to go get bigger, faster, stronger, then why would you not use it? Our guys have done a great job."

Field-side defensive end Freedom Akinmoladun is a prime example.

Playing at 255 pounds as a freshman, the 6-foot-4 Akinmoladun is now listed at 270 pounds in his junior year.

"Freedom's big. He looks great. They're all getting stronger, and that's a never-ending process," Parrella said.

Another thing the coach likes about his most game-experienced defensive lineman?

"You know what's great is his retention from the previous year."

Spring re-Newell: Another veteran defensive lineman who Parrella feels has had a productive spring is fourth-year junior Peyton Newell.

A native of Hiawatha, Kansas, Newell has been working as the second short-side defensive end behind Carlos Davis.

"Peyton so far has really improved from last year and I told him that. … He's running to the football and is grasping the system," Parrella said. "We're really happy where he's at right now. He's just got to keep improving."

Similar technique: A scheme shift, sure. But whether you're playing in a 3-4 or a 4-3, the basic techniques required of a successful defensive lineman remain the same.

Take that from Parrella.

"I will tell you this: If you're going into a UFC ring and fight, you better know how to choke somebody and you better know how to punch. Well, if you're a D-lineman, you better know how to punch with your hands, you better know how to choke their quarterback," Parrella said with a laugh. "There's not a lot of difference. We're really excited about what's going on here. We've just got to keep getting better."

Shocked punters: Diaco, who is coaching the punters this spring, said he coaches the specialists like linebackers.

"I'm not sure they're used to that," he said with a smile Tuesday. "But it's so fun."

What was the punters' reaction to the energetic defensive coach?

"Shock," Diaco said. "But they respond well. They want to be coached."

— Brian Christopherson, Steven M. Sipple and Clark Grell

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Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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