Typically, freshmen can’t talk to reporters until they’ve played in a game. Though there have been exceptions, that’s Nebraska’s general policy.
Which is why Garrett Snodgrass was made available for interviews on Monday.
The inside linebacker from York, a Super-State and All-Nebraska honoree, saw action on special teams against Purdue, an experience that was “a lot of fun,” Snodgrass said, though “I’m not going to lie, I was pretty nervous . . . it was kind of weird. I’ve never played in front of that many people. But after the ball got kicked, it was just like playing football any other time.
“Obviously, the athletes are better than they were in high school. But it’s still football.”
Oh yes, and Snodgrass loves the game; let’s be clear.
“I guess the No. 1 thing I like about them is they love the game,” inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud said, referring specifically to the young players he coaches.
In addition to Snodgrass, the Huskers’ 2019 scholarship recruiting class included inside linebackers Nick Henrich from Omaha Burke and Jackson Hannah from Nashville, Tenn. A handful of walk-ons joined them, including Luke Reimers from Lincoln North Star and Zach Schlager from McCook.
“They’re into football; that’s the biggest thing,” said Ruud. “They’re up there even when they don’t gotta be. If you’re not playing, sometimes it’s hard to go watch a bunch of film and be around it, but that’s what these guys like doing. They’re up here. They’re working.
“So that’s what I’ve been excited about.”
Reimers has played in seven games, primarily on special teams. But the plan is to redshirt Snodgrass, Henrich and Hannah, which means they couldn’t play in more than four games.
Henrich and Hannah have yet to see action. Henrich was also slated to play on special teams against Purdue but got sick. He’ll likely see action against Wisconsin.
“Absolutely,” Ruud said. “And since there’s three (games) left, the redshirt’s already in the bag, which is what we were looking for. So yeah, that’s the plan for him, use him as much as possible.”
Despite the acknowledged initial nervousness, Snodgrass was able to maintain his composure for the most part. “I’ve always thought I did a pretty good job of just kind of having an even-keel when I’m playing, control my emotions very well,” he said.
“So I wasn’t, like, super-jacked up or anything . . . super-timid or nervous. I had confidence in myself that I could do my job. I’d been doing it all week (in practice), so I was pretty confident going out there and I kept my emotions under control, I guess.”
He and the other freshmen, “I feel like we’ve made pretty good strides,” said Snodgrass. “I know personally, I’ve improved my game quite a bit.
“That’s a testament to our coaches and our strength and conditioning and senior leaders, just helping me along, giving me great advice on technique and scheme, whatnot.”
Mo Barry, a senior and co-captain, is among those who have helped the young players. Snodgrass, for example, “he came in (and) I told him what to do,” Barry said. “He did it the next day without me telling him again. Someone who’s hungry to be better than he was yesterday is the kid he is.
Snodgrass “has a lot of potential, and he loves the game,” said Barry.
“Man, he’s going to be a great player if he just keeps on doing what he’s doing and just focuses on developing himself. It’s something easier said than done. Some players get complacent in their development and their development stops short. They never achieve their potential.”
Snodgrass “has a lot of potential and loves the game. I know that’s what gives me confidence that he will keep on developing because he loves the game,” Barry said.
In evaluating the young players, “there’s going to be things you’ve got to see on film, the energy to the ball,” Ruud said. “Then when you talk to them, do they have a sense for football? Do that watch football in their spare time or do they do other things, play video games?
“You get a good sense of that when you talk to guys. Are guys more about the limelight or are they about football. And that’s very important . . . you want guys with that mentality.”
As well as guys who love the game, as Snodgrass and the other freshmen obviously do.
Mike Babcock is a long-time Husker reporter and editor for Hail Varsity Magazine.