On the final day of the fall semester, Nebraska has apparently already wrapped up the teaching phase of its bowl preparation. Now, it's all about studying.
Following Friday's full-padded practice at the Hawks Center, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said the Huskers have fully installed their game plan for their Jan. 1 Gator Bowl showdown with Clemson.
Watson said he and the rest of NU's coaching staff tried to keep the scheme as familiar as possible for the players while also throwing in a few new wrinkles.
"It's done. We're already in," Watson said. "We've got everything in. We'll finish up our install here in our last meeting this evening, and we'll practice it tomorrow. But it's gone real well. All we'll do is just downsize our game plan from here. We're looking at some things, some different combinations and different things we haven't done, and we'll keep some and we'll get rid of some so we don't carry too heavy of a plan into the game."
With the extended break between the end of the regular season and the bowl game, Watson said the coaching staff has had time to try out a variety of different plays and packages it could potentially use against the Tigers. However, he said the staff has made sure not to get too crazy with its new additions.
"We always push ourselves as a staff to try and be creative outside of what we've done," he said. "We don't ever want to be the same. The system's built to allow us to do that, but for this game especially, we've had time, so we're looking at some different things that we'll do. Some things we'll keep, some of them we'll can because they're not us."
With as much down time as the Huskers have had since their win over Colorado in their regular-season finale, Watson said the temptation is there for coaches to try and get a bit too creative with their game plans in preparing for a bowl game.
Watson said he and head coach Bo Pelini and the rest of the coaching staff made it a point to keep their playbook additions to a relative minimum.
"We talked about that when we started prepping," he said. "We didn't prep any different. We always try to color outside of the lines no matter what we do, but that stays inside of our system."
As for the players, Watson said the focus and intensity may have never been better than it was in the Huskers past two practices on Thursday and Friday. After more than three weeks of only hitting each other, it appears the Huskers are eager to take the field against an actual opponent again.
"They're excited about this bowl game," Watson said. "We have had to do nothing in terms of getting their attention. They've come to work every day, and they've been outstanding in terms of their focus, you know, because they've had finals. They've really been focused on what we're trying to do with our plan.
"We've had two really good practices, maybe our two best practices of the year these last two days. I'm excited to see them play. I can't wait to get them back here."
***Watson said senior running back Marlon Lucky is back to 100 percent after a toe injury forced him to sit out NU's game season finale against Colorado. Watson said the running back rotation in practice is back to how it was before Lucky's injury, as he resumes his spot as the No. 1 back on the depth chart in front of sophomores Roy Helu and Quentin Castille.
"Same as it was before he left," Watson said. "He, Roy and Q are taking reps like they usually do. Nothing different."
***The Huskers will return for a bright and early practice tomorrow at the Hawks Center, with a half-padded practice starting at 7 a.m. and wrapping up around 8:30 p.m.
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