Nebraska Football: Five things we learned from NU's spring press conference
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Five things we learned from NU's spring press conference

The Nebraska football team officially kicked off its first 2022 spring practice on Monday morning. Head coach Scott Frost, his entire coaching staff, and several players met with local media afterward.

Here are five of the more noteworthy topics addressed during the Huskers opening spring press conference…

Nebraska held its first spring practice on Monday after an offseason full of changes.
Nebraska held its first spring practice on Monday after an offseason full of changes. (Abby Barmore)

1. Frost coy on QB reps, Whipple not so much

While Frost played his answer close to the vest on who took the first reps at quarterback, new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple did not.

When asked who took the first reps of spring practice on Monday, Whipple cut right to the chase.

“Casey Thompson,” Whipple said when asked who took the first snap at QB on Monday.

Why?

“Because he’s No. 1 now,” Whipple said.

“I think he’s the best one right now. It might change tomorrow. There’s nothing set in stone. Chubba (Purdy) got a little bit of a nick, so he didn’t get much. Logan (Smothers) has done a good job, Heinrich (Haarberg) – all those kids have done a good job. Right now, we are looking at reps, and we are running two huddles.”

Whipple later expanded on why Thompson was the guy on Day 1.

“Just the way Casey has gone about his business, he was the best guy in the (skeleton) stuff that they did on air,” Whipple said. “I didn’t get to see it, but I had those guys give their stats on what they did.”

- Sean Callahan

2. Offensive changes will be an adjustment

With four new offensive coaches, a new offensive coordinator, and several newcomer players making their debuts this spring, it’s understandable that there was some sloppiness during Monday’s opening practice.

Frost didn’t seem overly concerned by the early hiccups, as he knows it’s going to take time and repetition for the revamped scheme and terminology to click on offense.

“There was some sloppy out there and it was not all on the field,” Frost said. “We have some new coaches that need to learn where they need to go for each period and do things in practice. Guys need to get familiar with things.

“You need to get familiar with some new concepts and ideas and terms and signals and places to go in practice and that is coaches and players alike. That was kind of expected today but it will get better fast.”

- Robin Washut

3. Busch is hitting the ground running on special teams

For the first time under Frost, Nebraska held a practice with a full-time special teams coordinator in Bill Busch.

Busch wasted no time setting the tone in his new role, as the Huskers spent the first 10 minutes of Monday’s session with kickoff team work.

While he didn’t want to talk much about what all went wrong on special teams last season, Busch highlighted some key points that need to be addressed.

First and foremost, he said NU’s kickers and punters need to be better at “hitting the ball” consistently.

Busch, who served as an analyst in 2021, felt Nebraska executed many of the “core” special teams fundamentals “really, really well” last season. But because the kicking and punting were so erratic, it made the Huskers look like a mess.

He was very high on Montana transfer punter Brian Buschini, and he was also excited about Furman transfer kicker Timmy Bleekrode, who will arrive in the summer.

Busch said NU would fill every special teams position with the best available player, including offensive and defensive starters and maybe even a quarterback if need be. Walk-on QB Matt Masker took some reps wearing a green no-contact jersey during the kickoff drills.

At punt returner, Busch said Trey Palmer, Tommi Hill, Oliver Martin, and Brody Belt would be the primary options.

- Robin Washut

4. Raiola had a special visitor at his first Husker practice

When Donovan Raiola took the field for his first official practice on Monday, he was greeted by a special guest.

Raiola’s older brother Dominic came to town to watch his brother in action as Nebraska’s new offensive line coach.

The 14-year NFL veteran came to town to show his brother support and even be an extra set of eyes to give him advice.

“It’s always great having guys like that around,” Donovan Raiola said of his older brother. “Any of those guys. Especially a guy like my brother. He’s right in my ear to ‘get this right.’ Just little things like that and having that support from him is great.”

- Sean Callahan

5. Injuries temporarily leave NU with some big shoes to fill

Frost didn’t have the complete list of players that would be out or limited with injuries during spring ball, but he rattled off a few notable names of guys who would miss most or all of the spring.

Among those players were a handful of projected starters and key contributors.

Senior tight end Travis Vokolek would be out until the summer while recovering from a shoulder injury. Junior defensive lineman Casey Rogers will miss “most or all” of the spring with a leg injury.

Junior inside linebacker Luke Reimer underwent another surgery on a lower-body injury. Frost said Reimer could return later this spring but would likely be out until the summer.

Other injuries were freshman running back Gabe Ervin (knee) and sophomore linebacker Garrett Snodgrass (undisclosed). Both will miss the entire spring.

There are also two offensive linemen out for spring ball in sophomores Turner Corcoran (undisclosed) and Teddy Prochazka (knee).

- Robin Washut