Huskers on KLIN

 


By Tommy Rezac


The Nebraska Football team wrapped up its second practice of the week on Tuesday afternoon at the Hawks Championship Center. Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, defensive assistants and players from both offense and defense addressed the media at the end of the workout.


Northern Illinois offense


Coach Diaco started off giving his evaluations on Northern Illinois’ two quarterbacks; redshirt sophomore Daniel Santacaterina and redshirt junior Ryan Graham.


Graham started the Huskies’ first game against Boston College, completing 15 of 38 passes for 190 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also played in eight games in 2016, passing for 680 yards, eight touchdowns and six interceptions with a 55.9 percent completion rate.


Santacaterina meanwhile played two games for the Huskies last season, totaling 361 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions on a 47.4 percent completion rate. He started last week against Eastern Illinois and had a solid performance, completing 23 of 34 passes for 252 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.


“They’re actually very similar guys,” Diaco said. “They’re similar physically. They’re about the same height. They’re about the same weight. The offense doesn’t seem to change at all based on one or the other. They both run that offense and manage it very well. They’ve both played a bunch of football.”


Santacaterina and Graham are relatively similar in stature, both weighing between 205-210 pounds and are both 6 feet 2 inches tall, according to the Northern Illinois roster.


Pass rush


Nebraska is currently tied for last in the FBS in total sacks with just one; junior linebacker Dedrick Young had one in the third quarter against Arkansas State.


Northern Illinois will present a spread style offense very similar to what both Oregon and the RedWolves ran against the Huskers. Diaco says that style offense makes rushing quarterbacks more difficult than other schemes.


“These offenses are built to create a lot of misdirection and a lot of problems in rushing the passer,” Diaco said. “They don’t take a lot of negative plays, these style of offenses. They get the ball out very fast.”


Oregon and Arkansas State have each only given up one sack as an offensive unit so far.


Diaco says the defense has been doing a mixture of both three and four-man rush to try and get after opposing quarterbacks more quickly and often.


“We are doing everything we can to try to help facilitate a growing, maturing, developing coverage,” Diaco said, “and that’s a balance of some pressure and some four-man rush and some three-man rush.”


Second half adjustments vs. Oregon


Diaco says his defense settling down and each player focusing on his individual job in the second half played a large role in the Huskers’ slowing down the Ducks’ offense in the final two quarters last Saturday.


“The players at times were playing and thinking that they should be doing x, y, z rather than falling back to their training,” Diaco said. “We had a chance to settle down and play one play at a time, get the call, execute your job, nothing more, nothing less and just see what happens. And sure enough; the plays looked better. Stops were put together, and before long, a quarter ended. Then, another drive and another drive and then another quarter ended, and you had a chance to get a little bit of a surge there.”


Diaco took full responsibility for the defensive blunders, and wants to assure his unit will continue to improve going forward.


“It doesn’t look like it should look and the points don’t look like they should look,” Diaco said. “That doesn’t make it any more or less real that we’re getting better. So unfortunately, that’s true. We are getting better, and the games have gone they way they’ve gone. It got better, and it will continue to get better.”


Tanner Lee


Junior quarterback Tanner Lee spoke after Tuesday's practice, and says he's looking forward to getting another game on his belt and learning from the mistakes made in Eugene.


"We watched the film and learned a lot," Lee said. "Extremely excited to get into this week. It felt good to be back on the field and playing again after a tough loss. It's just full steam ahead into Northern Illinois."


Other Notables


Junior left tackle Nick Gates mentioned limiting Northern Illinois' redshirt sophomore defensive end Sutton Smith, who leads the Huskies with six tackles for loss this season, will be a point of emphasis for the offensive line as they continue prep this week.


Tre Bryant did not practice Tuesday. He was seen walking off the field without pads on.


Safeties Aaron Williams and Antonio Reed practiced at full speed Tuesday, but were put in "non-contact situations," due to procedures they had done where getting hit could affect them physically.


Reed had his hand taped, but it doesn't seem to be serious or long term. Williams is perfectly healthy. This could also be out of precaution, since senior safety Josh Kalu is doubtful for this week.


Nebraska will practice again on Wednesday and Thursday. Head coach Mike Riley will address the media on Thursday evening following practice.


You can contact Tommy at 402-840-5226, or you can follow him on Twitter @Tommy_KLIN.




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