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Corey Campbell’s goals, new wide receivers

They’ve got development plans, motivational techniques and the willing eyes, ears and muscles of more than 100 college football players in their weight room.

Power conference head strength coaches have six-figure salaries, too — in the case of Nebraska’s Corey Campbell, $450,000 per year to oversee the physical growth of the Husker team.

So guys like Campbell need to find separators that take them from decent strength coaches to the elite category, a jump that helps a team’s on-field performance and recruiting pitch.

Campbell’s idea of a separator isn’t a book or a strength conference or a specific item in NU’s new weight room, even if it has just about everything. It’s an intangible quality.

“Humility,” Campbell said June 12. “Understanding that you don’t know it all, and you’re always seeking to gain knowledge from other people, right?”

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Campbell said he doesn’t have an ego and has been “blessed to have really good mentors” in the field he can still call. Campbell played football at Georgia for four seasons before working at Cincinnati and Purdue in 2016 and 2017. He joined coach Matt Rhule’s strength staff at Baylor in 2018.

“I also have a staff around me that I believe is a lot smarter than me as well,” Campbell said. “You hire people that are great at the things you’re not. I don’t need everybody in the weight room to be just like me.”

So Campbell leans on NU football’s nutrition director, Kristin Coggin, and Husker football sports scientist Mitch Cholewinski to lend their expertise. Each member of Campbell’s strength staff is responsible for at least one position group on the team, working with the position coach to align strength plans with on-field results.

Campbell compares this approach to that of a Formula 1 crew that divvies up its responsibilities for different parts of the race car.

“That’s a high-performance vehicle,” Campbell said. Each Husker player — almost 150 on the roster — is their own F1 car. “… And if one part isn’t (working), that car isn’t going to have the ability to win the race. That’s how I look at it. Each department is responsible for these guys’ health and wellness. If one of us isn’t performing at a high level, then that athlete can’t perform at a high level.”

Campbell is the program’s fifth strength coach in 20 years, with each head football coach during that timeframe having their own weight room guru. Dave Kennedy worked four seasons under Bill Callahan. James Dobson — now an assistant at Oklahoma — worked seven seasons under Bo Pelini. Mark Philipp — now an assistant with the Seahawks — worked three seasons under Mike Riley. Zach Duval worked five seasons at NU, mostly for Scott Frost until Frost was fired early in the 2022 season, and afterward for interim head coach Mickey Joseph.

Campbell worked at Baylor for Rhule then, after one season at Baylor after Rhule had moved to the NFL, followed Rhule to the Carolina Panthers.

He was a day one — hour one — hire for Rhule at Nebraska, arriving on the same private plane with his boss.

“If you asked any athlete in that building, they’d say ‘Coach Campbell trusts us, we trust him’ and they know that I care about them,” Campbell said. “And because they know I care about them, those kids, they’ll work their tails off for me.”

Troy Dannen headed for Director’s Cup Bonus

Just months into his tenure as Nebraska’s athletic director, Troy Dannen should be set for a contracted bonus tied to NU’s performance in the Director’s Cup standings.

With one sport — baseball — left to tally, the Huskers stand 22nd in the standings. Because Nebraska made the NCAA baseball tournament, it will score some points in baseball, leapfrogging at least Penn State. NC State sits 23rd but should jump both teams with its entry into the College World Series. So it’s likely NU finishes 22nd, which would be the school’s highest since 2009-2010.

The Cup assigns points to schools that make the postseason of a given sport. National champions get 100 points with points reducing from there; a national runner-up, like Nebraska volleyball, scores 90 points. Schools can count points in up to 19 sports, four of which must be men’s and women’s hoops, volleyball and baseball. Schools with more sports, especially niche Olympic sports, tend to do better.

A top 25 finish puts the NU athletic director in line for a $180,000 bonus, or 90% of the $200,000 target he’d get if Nebraska finished between 15th and 20th.

Texas has clinched the Director’s Cup title. Ohio State will finish highest among Big Ten teams, followed by USC, Michigan and likely Nebraska, if points projections hold.

Dannen is making $1.6 million in base salary this year, and also collected a $1 million signing bonus on May 31, 2024.

UFL MVP to NFL training camp?

Adrian Martinez stood on the podium as a champion and Most Valuable Player. The former Nebraska quarterback led the Birmingham Stallions to a 25-0 United Football League title game win for the franchise’s third straight championship. Martinez won MVP of the league itself and the championship game.

He got an interview with NFL legend Tom Brady — at the outset of his Fox football broadcasting career — as a result.

“I was telling some people, I don’t even know if that was a real moment or not,” Martinez joked in the postgame press conference to laughs from reporters. “Even Tom Brady himself, he looked like a freaking wax figure. This guy is a real person, you kidding me?”

Martinez said the UFL “is getting us exposure that we need.”

“A lot of guys get written off, and we come here to prove ‘em wrong,” Martinez said. “I think a lot of guys on our football team had a chip on their shoulder, coming in here. We wanted to prove them wrong and prove that, we can continue to get better and be a player on the next level.”

A potential NFL training camp awaits for Martinez, who went undrafted in 2023 and spent training camp with the Detroit Lions before getting cut last August. He joined the Stallions this spring, passing for 1,749 yards and rushing for 528 yards in the regular season. He accounted for 18 touchdowns — tied for most in the UFL. 

Garret McGuire on WRs Keelan Smith, Quinn Clark

Nebraska’s football roster lists Keelan Smith and Quinn Clark as receivers, and in a recent photo on X, Ainsworth blue chip Carter Nelson was included among the receivers in coach Garret McGuire’s room.

NU has broad, detailed plans for Nelson — some of which may include receiver — but McGuire would love to see Smith (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) and Clark (6-5, 205) remain at wideout.

“They’re unbelievable athletes — big guys,” McGuire said Wednesday. “Keelan, I’ve seen him take an unbelievable step as a route runner in just the last two weeks, in this summer period we had. I can’t say enough good things about him. And he’s a smart guy — he already knows Z and X. He wants to be a really, really good football player.”

Clark, who just arrived on campus, won the Montana state high jump title this spring, leaping 6 feet, 8 inches.

“He’s 6-5 and high jumps 6-8, so there’s going to be so many things we’re able to utilize with him. Maybe he turns into one of those guys who’s a red zone weapon or third down mismatch.”

Nelson, McGuire said, was recruited as a “Position X.”

“He’s his own player,” McGuire said.

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