It’s no secret that the Nebraska football running back room is going to look a little bit different under Brian Applewhite. Monday’s first media open practice was proof of that.
The Omaha World-Herald’s Sam McKewon had a nice article on Monday talking about some of the things that he saw and heard during the practice. One of his bullet points for what he heard came from Applewhite.
There is no denying that Applewhite has tried to remake the running back room, both in terms of style and in terms of who he is recruiting. Applewhite wants to bring a physical edge to the room, something that has been sorely missing from it the past couple of years. There have been plenty of athletes at the running back position, but physicality has been missing over the past couple of seasons.
It sounds like Nebraska football is working on physicality for their running backs. At one point during a drill on Monday, McKewon overheard Applewhite’s instructions. Let’s just say I like what he heard.
Running backs coach Bryan Applewhite constantly teaching during drills. One simulated a running back pushing through linebackers and safeties at the goal line. “Do not let the first level slow you down,” Applewhite said. “Pad level is crucial.” One back who ran too high on his first rep corrected it moments later. The group then worked on pass protection, to mixed results. “Don’t do it until you get it right,” Applewhite implored. “Do the technique until you can’t get it wrong.”
First off, I love the emphasis of making sure the first level does not slow you down. It seemed like Nebraska football running backs were getting slowed down by the first level way too often last season. Often times, the second level is easier to get by. Many times, getting past the second level gets you to the end zone. Even if it doesn’t lead to the end zone, three or four yards can make a huge difference.
Secondly, working on pass protection is also a huge development. Nebraska football running backs have not been strong in pass protection in recent memory. Often times, running backs are the last level of defense in pass protection. Nebraska football needs to protect Casey Thompson. The running backs can help make that happen.
Overall, it sounds like Applewhite had a strong day as a coach, and the running back unit had a strong day as well. If this is a sign of things to come, I’m very excited.