March 14, 2012

Wednesday notebook: Joseph fitting right in

When Terry Jospeh worked for Bo Pelini at LSU he was just a graduate assistant.

However, what Joseph always remembered was Pelini never treated him like a grad assistant.

Also on that staff with Joseph as grad assistant or intern coaches were current NU defensive coordinator John Papuchis, former Husker linebacker coach and current Indiana co-defensive coordinator Mike Ekeler and former Nebraska and now current LSU secondary coach Corey Raymond.

Papuchis, Joseph, Ekeler and Raymond all may have been interns, but Pelini gave them the responsibilities of full-time coaches.

Even though Tennessee's Derek Dooley gave Joseph his first full-time assistant coach job at Louisiana Tech, there was something about working for Pelini that drew him to Lincoln.

"It was tough in that aspect to cut that tie, and that was the toughest part of the move," Joseph said of leaving Dooley in Knoxville. "When (John Papuchis) first called, my first thought was man 'I grew up in the South, I coached in the SEC and I don't know if this is the right thing.'

"Then when I got home I started researching it and after 48 hours I couldn't not come, because it just made too much sense. For me it was a career changing move and I'm excited to be here."

Joseph also said the way Pelini treated his coaches at LSU made it an easy decision for him to want to work under him again.

"Some of the people that were trying to detour me in my decision said 'once you are a G.A., the guy always looks at you as a G.A.,'" Joseph said. "That made me want to come to Nebraska because Bo (Pelini) never treated us like G.A.'s.

"He let us coach, he let us do as much as we want, because he really helped us develop our careers. That was a big step in my coaching career that (Pelini) let us be so hands on at such a young point in our careers."

Joseph is Nebraska's third secondary coach in as many years, which is never an easy situation.

Joseph feels like he's done his best to break the ice with his guys though through three spring practices.

"One thing I did make clear when I can is I'm the new secondary coach," Joseph said. "We are going to do it the way I want to do it and that's coming from the top the way Coach (Bo) Pelini wants to do it. None of those guys have said 'I was told this' or 'I was coached to do it this way,' because we are going to do it the way Coach Joseph wants it done, and they understand that and they respect that."

Thus far Joseph hasn't disappointed. Senior safety P.J. Smith feels like Joseph has been a great addition to the staff and he's excited to have him on board.

"He's got that strong voice and when he talks to you he gets his point across," Smith said. "He's a great guy and knows what he's talking about and he's getting us better. He's challenging us every single day in the meeting room. We have a test every single day when we get in there and I've never had that before."

- Sean Callahan

Coaches finally get a break

While he would generally rather get more than three practices before his team goes off on spring break, Pelini isn't all that upset about having a few days off next week.

After Wednesday's practice, Nebraska won't return to the practice field again until Monday, March 26. Pelini said the coaching staff would review the film from the first three days of spring ball to prepare for when the team resumes practice, but said the staff would also enjoy a much-needed break from football.

"As a staff, we haven't taken much time off," Pelini said. "Next week, I'll give the staff off. The next couple days we'll get prepared for the practice when we get back. A couple of our new coaches, like Terry Joseph, will get a chance to see his family, which he hasn't seen them in a couple weeks. Kind of take a little bit of a break just like the team is, and then hit the ground running when we get back."

Because the coaches are not allowed to go on the road recruiting this time of year, the main focus for the coaches will be making sure the Huskers keep up their level of play when they get back to action.

Pelini said he's been very happy overall with the execution of his team and what NU has been able to get accomplished in the first three spring practices, but wants to make sure Nebraska keeps it up the rest of the way.

"I just talked to the guys, you know, we've got to hit the ground running when we get back," Pelini said. "We got a lot accomplished in the first three days, got a lot installed, and when they come back after break, we will review kind of what we've done up to this point and then keep progressing with our install. If we can continue along this path with the tempo and the attitude we had up through the first three days, we'll get a lot accomplished this spring."

- Robin Washut

Walk-ons getting more work than usual

With the amount of reps Nebraska's offense has been getting the past three practices, a few unexpected players have been able to get in some quality work this spring.

On the offensive line in particular, walk-ons like senior Justin Jackson and juniors Brodrick Nickens and Brandon Chapek have seen their reps increased significantly this week.

In the early portions of Wednesday's practice, Jackson was working as the No. 2 center behind Cole Pensick, and Nickens was working as the No. 2 right tackle behind Jeremiah Sirles. Chapek was getting reps at left tackle.

Pelini said some walk-ons were also getting a lot of work on the defensive side of the ball.

"I think there are some walk-ons on this football team that are really getting better," Pelini said. "You mentioned Chapek and Nickens, who are getting better. (Spencer) Long at the offensive line spot is getting better. On the defensive side, we've got a number of guys that are going to add to our rotation.

"Our guys have developed well. They came in and they've really shown well… especially this time of year. As you've seen, we've been able to get most of them reps, and that helps them get better and show what they can do and see if they can help this club."

- Robin Washut

Green more confident, experienced at corner

At the beginning of last season, Andrew Green looked lost.

His first real game experience didn't go smoothly, and teams like Washington tried to pick on him.

But as the season went on, the cornerback began to figure things out. Even as teams continued to avoid Alfonzo Dennard, they became more hesitant going after Green.

"The more confidence I got, the better I felt out there," Green said. "I'm feeling much more confident with the experience that I had last year. But I still feel I have a lot to learn and improve on as a player. I know I have a lot of potential and a lot to progress forward with."

There was some worry that any growth by the young defensive backs might be stunted after Raymond left for LSU and the Huskers hired Joseph, meaning the defensive backs would have their third position coach in as many years.

But Green dispelled that notion, saying the adjustment between the Raymond, Joseph and Marvin Sanders hasn't been that tough.

"It's coming along," Green said. "We're just trying to drop those old habits and pick up the new ones."

- Dan Hoppen

Smith endorses Papuchis

Senior safety PJ Smith fully endorsed the hire of Papuchis as defensive coordinator Wednesday, lauding the strides the young coach has made already in his first week of practice.

"I can't name on guy on this team that doesn't like him," Smith said. "He's a great coach. He's a wonderful guy."

But the new coach hasn't been afraid to mix things up. He doesn't do things just as former coordinator Carl Pelini did, but Smith said the new style could be an improvement.

"A lot of things have changed since he took over," he said. "Just the way that they teach things to us now is totally different. We had a test every day when we went in the meeting room.

"I thought I knew everything, but obviously I don't. He just brings something different to the table."

- Dan Hoppen

Quick hits

***Pelini said redshirt freshman Ryne Reeves has been working at both center and guard this spring. Pelini said the staff is still trying to figure out where Reeves' most natural position is, this spring so he can maximize his time there moving forward.

"You Ryne, he's done well over the first couple days," Pelini said. "We're trying to figure out if he's going to be a center or a guard right now. That kind of remains to be seen how that will all work out. We feel pretty good about how our center position has played out here over the first couple days. We're trying to figure it out, look at it and make some determinations.

"There's going to be a couple guys that are going to move from guard to tackle possibly or center to guard. We'll keep moving guys and mixing and matching until we find not only our best combination, but get our guys where they're most comfortable and can play their best football."

***Pelini said Braylon Heard continues to progress since making the move to cornerback from running back this spring. He said Heard has shown some great athleticism at his new position, which didn't come as much of a surprise. Pelini said he was initially going to offer Heard as a corner when he first started recruiting him out of high school.

Pelini said Heard has been working both at corner and nickel this spring.

"Braylon's done really well," Pelini said. "He's shown real explosiveness, and he's playing good football right now… He's got a lot to learn and he's got a long way to go, but he's had a really good start."

***Sophomore running back Ameer Abdullah said he's been really impressed with the running of fellow back Aaron Green this spring.

"He can cut on a dime," Abdullah said. "It doesn't matter what angle he's running at - full speed, tight space, open field, he has it."

***Senior tight end Kyler Reed said he's fully recovered from hamstring injuries that robbed him of his speed last year. He was a step slow, but should be back where he was for his sophomore campaign, when he caught eight touchdowns.

***Junior corner Ciante Evans has been impressed with what he's seen from junior college transfer Mohammed Seisay.

"(Seisay) is going to be good," Evans said. "He just has to have the right technique and the coaching. He's coming along."

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