Matt Rhule says Anthony Grant isn't in the doghouse, but the fumbles have to end
Matt Rhule says he’ll get in front of the microphone and all the TV cameras and, in talking to the media, send a message to his football team. On Tuesday, the Husker head coach sent a pointed message to one player in particular.
Rhule was asked if Nebraska tailback Anthony Grant came out of the Illinois win OK. The question was about health. Rhule went a different direction.
“Well, he’s not OK with me because he keeps fumbling the ball,” Rhule said. “I love Anthony, but you can’t play for us if you can’t control the ball. Anthony, he’s got to improve that. He’s not in the doghouse — people take things the wrong way — he’s got a skill that is not showing up. It’s very simple.”
Grant carried the ball 20 times for 56 yards and a touchdown in Nebraska’s 20-7 win over Illinois. He also fumbled the ball in the red zone in the fourth quarter. He has fumbled in back-to-back weeks, and now has three in five games this season.
“To me, it’s all technical,” Rhule said. “You can’t fumble the ball in practice on Tuesday, then fumble it in practice on Wednesday, then fumble it in four-minute on Saturday and think you’re gonna play the next week. I think the bye week comes at a great time because Anthony can really work on that this week. He’s got such great vision, he has all these things, but he has one skill that’s preventing him from playing at the level I think he can play at.”
Rhule said Grant isn’t holding the ball properly when he runs. Tom Osborne was in recently to watch film with the team and Rhule said he praised the way quarterback Heinrich Haarberg secures the football when he carries it — hand over the tip of the ball, held high and tight.
That’s not what is happening when Grant carries it.
“Anthony’s been running with the ball one way his whole life, not protecting the front tip of the ball,” Rhule said. “He’s come so far in so many ways. His pass protection, his route-running, catching the ball, things that we thought maybe he couldn’t do, he can absolutely do. This is something that has to get corrected.”
Rhule said they won’t make him do anything gimmicky. He won’t carry a football around campus during Nebraska’s bye week. They’re counting on him to make the necessary adjustments, and counting on his teammates to hold him accountable.
“I’m counting on Anthony, and we need him to step up and very simply cover the top of the ball,” Rhule said. “He’s a really good player that could probably play for many years after this. But you’re not playing for Bill Belichick if you fumble the ball. You’re not playing for Mike Tomlin if you fumble the ball. We need him this week to really make a step.”