Husker assistant coaches make stop in Aurora

This week’s sports section has me extremely excited for football. I’ll take any excuse to talk pigskin in the middle of June.
The community of Aurora was one of several stops on the Husker Nation Tour June 12 with Nebraska assistant coach Jovan DeWitt and defensive quality control coach Jack Cooper in town to discuss a plethora of topics.
Sure, it might not have been the same if it was head man Scott Frost or athletic director Bill Moos in town, but DeWitt and Cooper brought a similar knowledge that was fun to soak up for an hour.
DeWitt has made several stops in coaching, including Army West Point and Northern Iowa, where his connection with Frost began.
As Frost left his defensive coordinator spot in 2009 to join Oregon, DeWitt came in and took that position. Once Frost got the job at UCF, DeWitt knew he’d get a call.
“They called me up and asked me if I had any interest in joining them and I told them that I was already on a plane down there,” the coach said with a laugh.
DeWitt was also the linebackers/special teams coordinator at UCF, which is what he now does at Nebraska.
There were a couple of times throughout the hour that fans in attendance tried to bait the coaches into bad mouthing the former staff or have them say something that could/would have created a headline.
Credit to both DeWitt and Cooper, who fielded those questions like athletes conditioning when the new coaches showed up with thought out and dignified responses.
DeWitt also addressed game and practice speed, which was an interesting insight to how things operate.
According to DeWitt, the Huskers average around 2-1/2 plays a minute during practice.
“That effects how you coach,” he said. “I have to speak in acronyms quite a bit so my guys can understand what I’m talking about.”
He also talked about when going through plays in the meeting room, they’ll flash the formation up on the screen and give the players 2-1/2 seconds to shout out the call before the screen goes black.
“Everything we do is built around the ability to think fast and communicate fast,” DeWitt said.
As the defensive quality control coach, Cooper gets to study the opponents who Nebraska plays in September, so when the coaches like DeWitt get back from recruiting trips, they will be ready to go in the fall.
“We get to know what opponents do, so when coaches get back we get a head start on preparing for games,” Cooper said.
Just as a pure football junkie, this part of the conversation had me salivating.
DeWitt discussed the amount of information at the coaches’ fingertips when it comes to players and using the GPS systems to track movement and much, much more.
The unit can be strapped to the players back or shoulder pad and, according to DeWitt, can show the miles a player ran, the yardage they ran, how many times they changed direction left and right, decelerations and accelerations, top end speed, when they were at top end speed and how many times they were there.
Whoa.
“There’s just a ton of information and everyone thinks it’s just about how much you ran,” DeWitt said. “What we learned at West Point was it’s about the number of decelerations.”
He added that the deceleration is going from full speed to a dead stop, which has its wear and tear.
“One of the sure-tell signs is to have a player go test on a vertical jump, and if there’s a discrepency on their vertical of about two and a half inches, there’s a 85 percent chance they’re more prone to a soft tissue injury,” DeWitt said.
DeWitt noted that last year at UCF, there were zero games missed due to soft tissue injuries, which is unheard of in college football.
At the end of the day, the two-day tour helped those coaches who hadn’t seen or ever been to Nebraska understand the fan base and know what it means to people. Now, they’re ready to win games. “Realistically we expect to be in a bowl game,” DeWitt said. “But we have the mindset of expecting to win every game because we are Nebraska. Nebraska football has the reputation of winning and so that’s what we plan to do.”
RICHARD RHODEN can be reached at sports@hamilton.net.

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