Red Report: Defending the Hawkeyes; Reed talks Blackshirt; Jurgens update
It’s easy to look around the country at all of the collegiate offenses that use space and pace to make life difficult on defenses — Nebraska included — and wonder how anybody goes about stopping anybody.
For Nebraska inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud, though, a pro-style attack like Iowa’s, with its shifts, motions, actions and deceptions, is as big a challenge as any spread attack.
“I think this is the hardest stuff to play against as linebackers and that’s zone-blocking schemes, a lot of bootlegs, a lot of play-action passes,” he said Tuesday of the offense coordinated by Brian Ferentz in Iowa City, Iowa. “It’s very similar to the old Mike Shanahan, Gary Kubiak offenses, I think. I always thought those were the hardest ones to play against, personally.”
In what’s become something of a rarity, this is the second straight week NU has to prepare for a pro-style offense.
“(That part) is great,” inside linebacker Mohamed Barry said Monday. “It would’ve been worse if we played Illinois and (then) Iowa, but the fact that we played Michigan State and then Iowa is honestly a good thing for us. There are a lot of similarities in both offenses, so that’s good.”
Ruud always emphasizes consistency and habits, and this week is no different.
“That’s been hammered this week that you’re going to see inside and outside zone all game and it’s how many times can I get in my gap, how many times can I do my job?” he said. “The minute you don’t or you get bored with it, they gash you.”
Reed talks Blackshirt: Antonio Reed, after Saturday’s win against Michigan State, said he was focused on getting back to work and not if his latest performance merited a Blackshirt.
His coaches made sure to reward the senior safety with a coveted practice jersey.
“It was exciting for me, but I think the most excitement came from my brothers and my teammates around me, and that just made me feel basically welcomed at home,” Reed, sporting a No. 25 Blackshirt, said after Tuesday’s practice.
Reed is coming off arguably his best game as a Husker. He had seven tackles, an interception, one sack and two forced fumbles, including one on his fourth-quarter sack of MSU quarterback Rocky Lombardi.
The Memphis native is looking to carry it over into Friday’s game against Iowa.
“I feel like it’s going to bring energy to the team for the next game because of the assignment and everything we play with,” Reed said. “The feeling afterward was the best part, for the team, the feeling of us all being together as a team.”
Reed was not the only Husker to receive a Blackshirt this week. Senior defensive tackle Peyton Newell tweeted Tuesday that he received one, too, making for 15 Blackshirts.
Love-hate relationship with shorter weeks: A game on Black Friday means one less day of preparation for the Huskers and Hawkeyes.
The shorter week doesn’t bother Nebraska offensive coordinator Troy Walters.
“I like the shorter weeks because you get to play sooner, and our guys are at a point on offense where we know what we’re doing,” Walters said. “We know the plays, we know the system.”
NU defensive coordinator Erik Chinander, however, is not a fan of shorter weeks.
“The guys love the game, I love the game, too,” he said. “But Saturday is for the boys. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, those are my days, so when I miss a day, I don’t like that very much.
“But I know it’s good to get a Friday game after Thanksgiving.”
Walters said the Huskers will go through more of a walk-through on Wednesday.
Jurgens out of boot: Freshman Beatrice native Cameron Jurgens walked by reporters Tuesday with no cast on his right foot and no noticeable limp, an improvement as NU nears the offseason.
Jurgens, who was recruited as a tight end but is moving to center in the future, broke a metatarsal on his right foot in October.
Originally, NU thought there might be an outside chance Jurgens could be available again late in the season, but, particularly with the impending position change, there’s no reason to rush him back.
Finishing on a strong note: A victory in Iowa would not only snap a three-game losing skid to the Hawkeyes, it would give the Huskers (4-7) five wins in their final six games.
Motivation to finish strong is not an issue, running backs coach Ryan Held says.
“If you came out to practice today, you’d think we were undefeated and getting on a playoff run,” Held said. “That’s just the way the culture is right now. You hear us talk about it in August, (were) probably blue in the face in September when we were losing, like, ‘You guys are probably crazy,’ but we saw it. We just had to get it right.”