football Edit

Mickey Joseph on the radio: Thompson with captains, no more Blackshirts

Mickey Joseph.
Mickey Joseph. (Greg Smith/Inside Nebraska)

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Mickey Joseph had his first ‘Sports Nightly’ interview as Nebraska’s interim head football coach Thursday. The interview was originally scheduled for primetime, 7 p.m.

Except, Joseph moved the interview up an hour to 6 pm. He had a high school game to catch.

It’s been a head-spinning kind of busy week for Joseph, who was named the Huskers’ interim head coach last Sunday, the same day Scott Frost was fired after amassing a 16-31 overall record in 47 games. Sitting back and kicking up his feet is the last thing the Louisiana native wants to do.

During his hour-long interview with host Greg Sharpe, Joseph touched on a multitude of topics as he prepares his team to face No. 6 Oklahoma (2-0) this weekend. Here are the highlights.

Changes on defense?

One of the biggest issues of the 2022 Huskers has been the defense. Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander’s unit hasn’t stopped the run through three games as opponents are averaging a staggering 5.65 yards per carry.

On Tuesday, Joseph mentioned he’s made tweaks to coaching responsibilities. Along with former analyst Mike Cassano coaching the receivers in a full-time assistant role, Chinander is still the coordinator, but will coach the safeties now. Travis Fisher is only coaching the corners instead of corners and safeties.

“We talked about doing some different things on defense,” Joseph said. “It comes down to gap integrity. We did a really good job this week of being in our gaps.”

Joseph didn’t want to get into specific schematic changes on live radio, saying “that would be a bad idea.”

The coach did mention “you’ll see some changes” but didn’t mention what.

Caleb Tannor.
Caleb Tannor. (Jansen Coburn/Inside Nebraska)

No more Blackshirts

Joseph confirmed that he has, in fact, taken away the Blackshirts from some of the defensive players. It’s nothing negative, the coach said.

Joseph just wants a fresh start.

“We talked about a new era starting. Everybody’s got a clean slate. So we’re 0-0,” Joseph said. “Now, it’s like we’re starting from the beginning. So we’re going to practice and earn those Blackshirts. I’m confident that they’ll get them back, but it wasn’t taken away from them because of the game. If we say everyone’s got a clean slate, well, we have to give other kids a chance to get the Blackshirts also.”

One team, one heartbeat, Joseph said. He’ll give them back when he thinks he should.

Casey Thompson.
Casey Thompson. (Zack Carpenter/Inside Nebraska)

Joseph met with the four captains — plus Casey Thompson

Joseph said he met with the four captains — Nick Henrich, Garrett Nelson, Travis Vokolek and Caleb Tannor — to talk about his vision for the team. But there was another player invited to that meeting — quarterback Casey Thompson.

“All four of them I brought in, and I also brought Casey in, because he’s the quarterback,” Joseph said. “I have a good relationship with these kids. And they understood what I wanted to do, and they know it’s going to be a little different. I’m going to be a little more feistier and a little more in your face. And I demand you do things the right way.”

Each player was receptive to the changes, the coach said.

No more music at practice

Joseph made the change of not blasting music at practice, which is common in college football. Why? He wants his team to bring his own energy — that’s what players need to do in games anyway.

“Energy? That’s what we’re preaching right now,” he said. “The kids have a lot of energy. The coaches have a lot of energy. The trainers have a lot of energy. The strength coaches have a lot of energy. Energy has to be throughout the building. Because I think that’s what pushes you to be great, is that you have energy to do it.”

Mickey Joseph.
Mickey Joseph. (AP Photos)

Practices have been shorter, but faster

When he was a receivers coach, Joseph and Cassano graded their receivers off their game film. The coaches looked for “loafs” where the receivers didn’t go full speed on a play or if they shy away from contact. Sometimes, there’d be six or seven loafs out of 70-75 plays, which is too many, Joseph said.

So loafs will be one thing Joseph will be tracking himself across the entire team in his new role, not just the receivers.

“This week, I’ve seen effort in practice. I’ve seen it,” Joseph said. “Now, coaches are pushing them. ‘Hey, let’s run, we’re running, we’re moving.’ And everyone is screaming the same thing, ‘Transition, let’s go, let’s get there.’ So practice has been shorter, but practice has been faster.”

The locker room will never be divided under Joseph’s watch

With Nebraska’s offense being mostly productive through three games while the defense has struggled to get stops, is Joseph worried about a fracture within the team in the locker room?

Simply put, no.

“This is a high-character team. These are good kids, good boys,” Joseph said. “There’s not going to be any finger pointing. Even when Frost was here, he didn’t allow that. When there was a loss, we put it on the coaches and say, ‘We have to coach you better.’”