LINCOLN–(NU Athletics Mar. 30)–Nebraska football defensive line coach Terrance Knighton met with members of the media following spring practice on Thursday.
Knighton covered several topics, including his standard for a good defensive lineman.
“Right now, it’s just fundamentals, pad level, playing with good hands, being violent and getting off the ball,” he said. “Getting off the ball and, we talked about in the past, having dynamic guys that can get off the ball and threaten offensive linemen right away. So, our guys are just developing that right now and getting better every day.”
When asked which players have impressed him, Knighton praised the entire defense with a special shoutout for Nash Hutmacher.
“Right now, I think the whole group is doing a good job. They’re all buying into it,” Knighton said. “Nash is leading the way right now, he’s doing a good job with leadership, taking ownership of the room. With Ty Robinson and Blaise (Gunnerson) out right now, he’s taking that leadership role to the next level. He’s doing a good job of hearing the message from Coach Rhule, hearing the message from me and applying it to the rest of the room.”
One message the coaching staff is pushing is the need for toughness.
“Gritty playmakers. That’s the mentality we’re going to have,” Knighton said. “Gritty for me is just doing everything the tough way. If you’re getting double-teamed, you’re fighting through it. If the ball is 20 yards away from you, you’re fighting through it, but at the same time we want to go out there and make plays and play in the back field.”
Knighton says the Husker defense understands and is adopting this mindset.
“They understand what we want. There’s a lot of leadership in the defensive room,” he said. “They’re pushing those guys to make sure we’re running to the ball, we’re attacking the ball, we’re all speaking the same language.
“If a ball is on the ground, it’s ours. We’re picking it up. And just relaying those messages to the guys from Coach Rhule to the rest of the coaching staff, and now the leaders are starting to do it, so you see it picking up as a group when the peers are pushing their peers to do it.”
Knighton also touched on the beauty of having dynamic players who are willing to test out new positions.
“There are lots of guys moving around, but it’s a tribute to the players that they’re in the playbook. They’re learning the defense. They have to learn things on the fly, and they’re doing that, and they’ve bought into that. All we’ve asked them to do is go out there and play hard, and the football will handle itself.”
The Huskers will continue their spring practice on Saturday.