Nebraska held its first of two Monday practices early this morning. Here’s what we know now:
–Defensive coordinator John Papuchis had some praise for how his four freshman defensive linemen performed in their first week of camp.
“They compete even though they’re young and they’re learning,” he said. “The ends are very athletic, both Avery (Moss) and Greg (McMullen), and the inside guys are big, physical guys. Vincent Valentine is a big man in there and he moves his feet really well. Aaron Curry has had real steady improvement throughout the first week. I like all four of those guys.”
The odds that any of the four will be a factor this year are still long. Papuchis said freshman on the line typically benefit more than most from a redshirt season due to the physical adjustment but added he’s “not going to redshirt someone who’s going to help us win football games.”
–Offensive coordinator Tim Beck said there’s a three-way race going on for second-string quarterback duties and, so far, it’s been a tight race.
“Right now it’s very even between Brion Carnes, Ron Kellogg and Tommy Armstrong,” Beck said. “All three of those guys have been playing well…We’re distributing reps as equally as we can to get a chance to look at those guys to see who’s going to be the most consistent.”
–What is it about the freshman Armstrong that has everyone raving? “I’m very impressed with his presence,” Beck said. “He’s got a lot of the ‘It’ factor you look for in a quarterback. He’s picked up the offense much faster than I thought he would. He’s a student of the game and he’s a very talented young man. That combination has not only impressed me but also his teammates.”
–Sophomore wide receiver Jamal Turner struggled to see the field in the second half of last season but early in fall camp Nebraska has been looking at creative ways to get him more time on the field.
“We’re moving him around at a lot of different spots so he can get on the field more instead of playing one specific position at wide receiver,” Beck said. “That limited his reps (last year), we had to be in that personnel and other guys played that spot as well. Now, he can pretty much go in all of (the wide receiver spots).”
–Offensive line coach Barney Cotton deferred most of the direct questions regarding Tyler Moore’s temporary departure to Bo Pelini, but he did talk about how it affects the offensive line overall.
“(Brent) Qvale had been working with the ones so the starting line, really, is no different,” Cotton said. “We’re working three guys at center, two guys at right tackle and our guards have been the same guards…Obviously it hurts our depth, but, next man up, we’re ready to go.”
Cotton said Qvale started working primarily with the first-team “towards the end of last week.” Prior to that, Qvale and Moore had been splitting time with the first unit.
–Nebraska players raised a few eyebrows early this season when they mentioned d-line coach Rick Kaczenski’s new focus on “attacking football,” but Kaczenski said that isn’t a fundamental change from Pelini’s system in the past.
“Schematically everything’s the same,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve changed anything philosophically, it’s just more the attitude that we have to take. Getting back to playing Nebraska defense. It’s just a mentality.”
Nebraska will practice again Monday night, then once on Tuesday before resuming two-a-days on Wednesday.