March 29, 2011

New coaches making good impressions early on

It's still hard for junior linebacker Will Compton to process that his former position coach, Mike Ekeler, will likely never coach him again. The good news, however, is Compton is finally starting to move on.

With more than a full week of spring practice now in the books, Compton and the rest of Nebraska's linebackers have started to warm up to Ekeler's replacement, first-year NU linebackers coach Ross Els.

In fact, the transition has gone even better than Compton expected so far.

"Adjusting to Coach Els has been great," Compton said. "I mean, we all have a spot in our heart of Coach Ek. Coach Ek is one of a kind, coach wise and as a person. He'll still check in on us every now and then. We definitely miss him and stuff, but having Coach Els is awesome too.

"You have that place for Coach Ek, but now we've moved on, I guess you could say. It all worked out."

While Els and Nebraska's three other new assistants haven't been available to media yet this spring, all of their respective players have given nothing but positive reviews from their first official week together.

Of course that's to be expected, especially this earlier into their time together. But the good news for the Huskers is that much of the sentiment appears to genuine, particularly considering the tight bonds many of the players had with the departed Ekeler, former receivers coach Ted Gilmore and defensive backs coach Marvin Sanders.

"We all bought in right away," Compton said. "(Els) came in and laid out his rules and circumstances and everything, and we trusted who Coach Bo (Pelini) brought in. It was great right from the start."

New receivers coach Rich Fisher has also gotten off on the right foot with his players to start the spring. Junior wide out Tim Marlowe said Fisher fits right in with the rest of Nebraska's coaching staff, and said he's brought plenty of new techniques to the position from what Gilmore had been teaching.

Fellow receiver Curenski Gilleylen, who spent the first four years of his Husker career working under Gilmore, said one of the biggest differences with Fisher has been his focus on doing the little things to get open on routes and not as strong of an emphasis on blocking compared to Gilmore.

"Coach Fisher is definitely Bo's kind of guy," Marlowe said. "He's a real hardnosed guy, and he fits right along with all these coaches. He brings a lot of discipline to the table, and he's just really pushing us to be better people on and off the football field. He just brings a lot of good characteristics to the table."

One of the more talked about new coaches coming into the spring, defensive backs coach Corey Raymond has obviously gotten his share of rave reviews. Players like cornerbacks Alfonzo Dennard and Ciante Evans both said Raymond's six seasons as an NFL cornerback make his teachings that much more valuable.

Evans also said Raymond's attention to detail when it comes to technique in coverage has been the biggest difference from Sanders, who he said focused more on the big picture of the defense.

"Coach Raymond has been real cool," Evans said. "He's all about technique. If you're having trouble with something, he'll come work with you one-on-one until you figure it out."

Though he's not exactly a new face, John Garrison made the rise up the coaching staff ranks this offseason up to co-offensive line and tight ends coach. Garrison worked with the offensive line as an intern with Barney Cotton last season, but he wasn't allowed to be nearly as involved as he is now due to NCAA rules.

The biggest adjustment has been his taking over the tight ends, as former tight ends coach Ron Brown moved to coach running backs when Tim Beck took over as offensive coordinator.

While he played on the offensive line at Nebraska and has worked primarily with the line since becoming involved with the coaching staff, NU's tight ends say Garrison has brought just as much passion to the position as he does with the linemen.

In fact, junior tight end said Garrison's coaching intensity wasn't that far off from Brown, widely regarded as one of the most lively coach on the staff.

"He's a young guy and he's really excited about being a coach now and being able to work with the tight ends," Reed said. "He said he's loves working with tight ends, so he's real excited. That's pretty much what he brings, just that fire and up-tempo style.

"It's about like (Brown) as far as being out here and being fired up and running around. Coach Brown was just like that. They're different guys, but as far as being fiery, they're about the same."

As good as things appear to be going so far with Nebraska's new coaching introductions, some things probably won't ever change in the player-coach relationship.

"(Els) is a great guy and a great coach, a great teacher," Compton said. "He's fun to be around. He's got his lame jokes like all the coaches who think they're young still. We've got to give him courtesy laughs."

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