The Nebraska football team practiced for approximately two hours on Thursday inside the Hawks Championship Center in helmets only.
Head Coach Scott Frost addressed the media following practice to talk about how the team’s preparation for Illinois has gone this week.
“Great week,” Frost said. “Best week again that we’ve had. Things keep getting better. Certainly not happy with how this whole season has gone, but I’m pretty happy with where things are right now.”
He also spoke about quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco, who was named a nominee for the Broyles Award on Thursday, which is given to the top assistant coach in the nation.
“Mario is one of the best in the country at coaching quarterbacks,” Frost said. “I’ve known that a long time, I think others are just starting to figure that out. I’ve seen him do unbelievable jobs with quarterbacks we’ve had in the past and obviously to get an 18-year-old (Adrian Martinez) to play the way he’s been playing speaks volumes to what Mario’s capable of doing. Any honor that he can get is well deserved.”
As for Illinois, Frost was asked about his familiarity with the Illini’s defense scheme – specifically the style of defense the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were known for, as Frost was a safety for the Bucs and Illinois Head Coach Lovie Smith was both a defensive assistant and head coach at Tampa Bay.
“There’s still stuff I recognize,” Frost said. “Obviously I’ve got a fond place in my heart for all those guys. Lovie wasn’t there but I got to know Herm (Edwards) in New York, Rod Marinelli, Joe Barry and Monte Kiffin and especially Mike Tomlin and Raheem (Morris) I’ve talked about those guys a lot. I loved my time there, I loved the scheme and the system. The tough thing, I took that system and helped to get a bunch of it installed when I was still coaching defense. When you’re playing in that scheme in the NFL, there weren’t a lot of quarterbacks running read zone or any of those threats so you have to tweak it a little bit, and they’ve done a good job with that, trying to adjust it to the college game. That (coaching) tree that Lovie was a huge part of means a lot to me.”
“(The system is) sound. That was the best part of that scheme when I was playing in it is you always knew where you were supposed to be, where you’re supposed to fit and there wasn’t a lot of glaring issues with it because everybody knew their assignment, knew their role and knew their run fit. When you play against a defense like that, a lot of times you just got to make plays because there aren’t a lot of things on film that are glaring issues.”
Frost lastly spoke on Illini quarterback AJ Bush – a former Huskers – and how going up against Adrian Martinez helps the defense prepare for such a mobile quarterback.
“Some of their schemes are similar to what we do on offense,” Frost said. “Obviously their guy can run, he was here so you guys know him as well as I do, but they played a great game offensively last week. Put up a bunch of yards, a bunch of big plays. Sometimes it takes a while to find yourself and they have seemed to settle on what they’re going to do, and they looked really good at it last week. So hopefully a little bit of the experience against our offense helps our defense, but they’re going to pose some challenges for our defense.”
The Huskers will host Illinois at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. and the game will be televised on BTN.