LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska safeties coach Bob Elliott didn’t watch any film before his first day on the job.
“By design,” Elliott said. “I didn’t want to have preconceived notions.”
So two weeks into football spring practice, he only has a small sample size to draw on.
But even with that, Elliott has learned a few things. At the top of the list: safety Aaron Williams could be special.
“Aaron Williams is as smart of a player as I’ve ever been around,” said Elliott, who began his coaching career in 1976 as a graduate assistant at Iowa. “He’s grasping things I never dreamed a safety could grasp this quick. I really feel good about him. He’s really going to be a pleasure to coach.”
With the shift from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense, Williams’ role does change a bit, Elliott said. He coached this same style of defense with defensive coordinator Bob Diaco at Notre Dame in 2012 and 2013, and Elliott said the role of a safety in the 3-4 scheme is significant.
“They can’t allow balls to get behind them, whether it’s run or pass, so their job is to make everybody else right in the front,” Elliott said. “It’s a high-responsibility job in this defense.”
Elliott likes the promise of how well Williams can put both himself, and others, in the right position. He said Williams, a junior this fall, doesn’t need to see or do something repeatedly to grasp it.
“You can put something in in a meeting, and he’ll do it on the field, and not only do it but position all the other guys to do it,” Elliott said.
The main strength Williams has is the way he looks both at his position and the entire defense, Elliott said.
“If you just memorize assignments in football, you’re not going to be good, and you’re not going to be consistent,” Elliott said. “But Aaron has a way of conceptualizing it, of the coverages and assignments, and he puts things together as packages in his mind.”
Only two weeks into the installation of the 3-4 defense, the Cornhuskers safeties haven’t fully grasped the entire defense yet, Elliott said. But he likes Williams and said he also is encouraged by junior-to-be Antonio Reed.
“They don’t have it fully yet, but they’ll get it,” Elliott said.