Markese Stepp rushed for 101 yards on 18 carries and looked like a possible featured back in Nebraska’s win over Fordham last week, but head coach Scott Frost isn’t ready to name the USC transfer the starter just yet.
“A lot of guys played well in that game and they’ve all had extremely good weeks of practice. I think they’ve all stepped their game up and part of that is due to the competition there,” Frost said of the running backs. “So we’re going to keep going with the hot hand and the guy that practices the best, and I think it’s going to be a week-to-week thing until somebody establishes themselves.”
While the hot hand will get action at running back, punt returner is a position that corner Cam Taylor-Britt owns despite his recent mental errors that resulted in a safety against Illinois and a turnover against Fordham. Frost said he still has faith that Taylor-Britt is the best option for the job because of his big-play potential.
“I trust him, so we have to continue to put him out there,” Frost said of Taylor-Britt. “He’s the best guy on our team to try to make a play on punt return so he’ll get his chances and we’ll see if others will get chances as well.”
Kickoff return has long been an area of Nebraska’s game that needs improvement. The Huskers rarely reach the 25-yard line—where the ball would be placed if fair caught—if they attempt to return the ball. Frost believes that a big play on the kickoff unit it close to happening.
“Blocking on the front line of kick return is one of the hardest jobs in football,” Frost said. “You have to get a lot of guys to get their block on the same play to make one of those happen, and we have a fast guy back there (Zavier Betts) returning it, so if we give him a seam we’ll have a chance, and we’ll keep taking our chances on popping one.”
After a poor performance in both run and pass blocking, the Husker offensive line enjoyed a better outing against Fordham. Despite a slow start for about a quarter and a half, bigger holes started opening up and quarterback Adrian Martinez had time in the pocket to throw downfield. After watching the film, Frost said there was improvement there.
“I thought they played aggressively and some of that has to do with having a better idea of where they (Fordham) were going to be lined up and what they were going to be doing,” Frost said. “I think the guys were prepared really well for the game.”
Many players got to see the field in the blowout win over the Rams, including Nebraska’s backup quarterback Logan Smothers, who saw his first action of his college career. The dual-threat Smothers, an Alabama native, completed four of his seven passing attempts for 50 yards and rushed for 36 yards.
“He made some good throws, good runs and good decisions,” Frost said. “He lost one fumble, and he just needs to take care of the ball and I thought he could’ve finished that play a little differently. But generally speaking, I thought he came in and had a really good debut.”
More news and notes:
>> Frost said he likes the depth at safety, which is something that can come into play on a hot day like Saturday is supposed to be. He mentioned backups like Myles Farmer, Noa Pola-Gates, Isaac Gifford and Koby Bretz who could see time in the defensive backfield.
>> Frost said some of the hottest days he remembers as a player in the NFL was during training camp in Orlando when he was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “That’s a steam room in July and August. We had guys getting IVs after every practice.”
>> Progress was made in the blowout win against Fordham, Frost said. “I think the execution was better. We’re moving in the right direction and we played a lot closer to the way I expect us to play.”