Nebraska football’s spring practices are underway. This the next step for Scott Frost and the Huskers’ new coaching staff as they look to turn the program around after a 4-8 season.
Spring practice is a bit different when the coaching staff is new. Coaches are still working on gaining working relationships with players they likely haven’t met before, and players are getting used to new coaching styles and schedules.
Nebraska defensive coordinator Erik Chinander explained to reporters on Saturday:
“You need to get to know these kids as people before you start going too hard on them for errors and that sort of thing, and I think our coaching staff is a really good teaching group. We are all so willing to travel with Coach Frost anywhere because we believe what he believes and that’s if we make these kids into good dads and good brothers and good sons and good husbands and good people in the community, then we’re not going to have to talk about wins or losses very much. The starting point is to get to know these kids as people, and then we’ll get into the football real hard.”
Chinander inherits a unit in need of some serious improvement. Nebraska’s defense ranked 110th in S&P+ in 2017. The Huskers allowed 5.6 yards per play on the ground and 7.3 yards per play, ranking 124th and 66th in the nation, respectively.
Chinander’s UCF defense wasn’t perfect. His unit ranked 74th in S&P+, and was worse on the ground than it was through the air. But that same defense did look mighty fine against Auburn in UCF’s Peach Bowl win, and Nebraska is committed to making sure that side of the ball gets back on track.
“The biggest challenge of this defense is changing the mindset,” Chinander said. “We want to get turnovers, we want to be aggressive, we want to get to the quarterback, we want to get the football out, we need to be an aggressive unit to match up with our offense. I think we just need to change the mindset, getting guys pressed up on receivers, letting guys loose, making guys free to make plays on the football instead of worrying about something going over their heads. So I think it’s just a mindset and a culture.”