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Red Report: Majority of offense installed; QBs work to control emotions; Miller's emergence
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RED REPORT

Red Report: Majority of offense installed; QBs work to control emotions; Miller's emergence

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Nebraska quarterbacks gather at the start of spring football practice on Tuesday morning, April 3, 2018, at the Hawks Championship Center.

It took seven spring practices for Nebraska to install the majority of its offense.

Now comes the work of polishing the rough edges that inevitably come with moving as fast as possible from Day 1.

"The guys have a grasp of what we're trying to do. They're doing a good job of picking it all up, understanding what we're asking of them, and we'll just continue to go from there," Nebraska offensive coordinator Troy Walters said Saturday. "There's a lot we can do within our offense in terms of different formations, motions, shifts, the tempo. 

"Now we've just got to detail everything and we've got to execute better."

The defense, as is often the case in early workouts, has had the upper hand through most of the Huskers' spring work. That was true again Saturday when Erik Chinander's group got the better of a short scrimmage between the units.

"I just think it was a little sluggish today (for the offense)," senior offensive lineman Cole Conrad said. "That's going to happen. (The coaches) are throwing a lot at us right now. You just have to take it for what it is, go in the film room, clean it up and just keep going."

The structure of Nebraska's practices — as many repetitions as possible for as many players as possible — will play a key role on how the offense develops, Walters said. 

"That's why we practice fast," he explained. "A lot of the details, a lot of the little things are just going to come from getting the extra reps and watching film and making sure we're champions in the film room and learning from our mistakes.

"If we're doing that and we're getting better each practice, then we'll be where we want to be come fall."

Keep it to yourself: Quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco saw some displays of negative emotion from his players Saturday — a no-no in the coach’s eyes.

“When the guys do that on the field, the people in the stands don’t know if you’re mad at yourself or mad at a receiver,” Verduzco said. “So, no emotion — for your teammates’ sake, No. 1. I don’t want to see that negative sort of emotion.”

Verduzco tells his players that the time to get angry or celebrate is after the game.

“Some guys are going to show more emotion than others, I get that,” the coach said. “But in terms of the negative part — never, never, never. In other words, don’t ever embarrass your teammates with your verbal comments or your hand gestures.”

Progress report: Verduzco played it close to the vest when asked about the quarterbacks’ competition for the starting job.

He didn’t even hint at when — this spring or August? — it might be decided.

Those competing are true freshman Adrian Martinez, redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia and sophomores Patrick O’Brien and Andrew Bunch.

“All the guys are getting their reps right now,” Verduzco said. “We’re splitting them up as evenly as we possibly can so that there’s a rotation that from their vantage point, and from everyone else’s vantage point, they can’t read anything into it.

“So, get your reps, let’s go, be as productive as you possibly can.”

Thomas leaner, ready to "crack heads": Deontre Thomas doesn’t face nearly as many double teams at defensive end, where he’s spent most of the spring.

As a true freshman, Thomas played mostly nose and was asked to chew up real estate and hold down the middle of the defense. He says the group as a whole was asked to play in a more passive nature.

"Last year they had us kind of waiting a little bit and playing a lag technique," he said. “This year we can just go, be ourselves and just go. Make plays. That’s what I like."

Thomas said he’s still about 280 pounds but has more power and explosion after dropping bad weight and adding good weight. He’s going to need it, too, in a big group with lots of competition.

"I feel like we’re more mentally tough and physically tough," he said. "We’ve been in the weight room and really working. We're just tougher than last year and ready to crack heads."

Thomas was one of a handful of defensive linemen to speak Saturday, and all talked about how their reshaped bodies have benefited them in spring ball.

Sophomore Ben Stille, an Ashland native who made a name for himself last season while spending some time at outside linebacker, is at 280 pounds on his 6-foot-5 frame, up from 255 last season.

Junior DaiShon Neal said he's able to squat 645 pounds three times after never being able to hit that weight before this spring. He's also able to put up three reps of 455 pounds on the bench press, "and it felt easy," he said. "So that right there showed us how good our bodies are."

Neal, who checked in at 6-foot-7, 275 pounds last season, said he's added about 20 pounds. Senior Peyton Newell has bulked up, too, up 23 pounds of muscle in the last seven weeks.

Obscurity to prominence: Hunter Miller continues to be one of the most intriguing stories of Nebraska’s spring season.

A redshirt freshman from Stromsburg, Miller, who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury “is legitimately pushing for (playing) time right now,” offensive line coach Greg Austin said. “He’s the guy we’re putting a lot of stock in right now — a guy that goes with the majority of the first-team reps. We’re riding him.”

Austin likes the 6-5, 275-pound Miller’s even-keel nature.

“To be honest with you, when we first started, I didn’t know that first practice of spring ball was his first collegiate practice — ever,” the coach said. “I was really kind of amazed by how he was able to fit in and really do a pretty dang good job early on.”

Reach the writer at 402-473-7436 or cbasnett@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.

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Husker men's basketball/baseball reporter

A Ravenna native, Chris covers the University of Nebraska men's basketball team and assists with football coverage. He spent nearly 10 years covering sports at the Kearney Hub and nearly four years at the Springfield News-Leader in Springfield, Mo.

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