Sophomore kicker Barret Pickering’s name reappeared on the depth chart Nebraska issued on Monday and on Tuesday after practice, Pickering walked out of the Hawks Championship Center in full pads.
Special teams coach Jovan Dewitt confirmed that Pickering was back practicing after missing the first seven games of the season.
“He’s been kicking for a little bit now, slowly reintroducing him back,” Dewitt said. “Like I’ve said, what we try to do is keep a kick count on those guys like you do with a pitcher, right? So you slowly reintegrate him back into how many kicks he can get in a day. So he had about 20 kicks the other day which was good and today will be a little bit more than that and then we’ll progress as we go.”
Dewitt said the Alabama native “looked good.”
“Kind of refreshing,” Dewitt quipped.
With Pickering on the shelf, true freshman walk-on Dylan Jorgensen got the start in the season-opener, making all five of his extra point attempts but missing his only field goal attempt which was partially blocked.
Jorgensen handled the opening kickoff against Colorado but did not play after that as he landed himself on the injury list as well. Punter Isaac Armstrong took over as the place-kicker in week two, going four-for-four on extra points and 1-for-2 on field goal attempts, missing a 48-yarder in overtime that sealed the 34-31 loss for Nebraska.
Armstrong kicked again in week three but went two-for-three on extra points and one-for-three on field goals before walk-on sophomore safety Lane McCallum, who transferred to Nebraska after spending his first year in college as a kicker at Air Force, took over and nailed his last three extra points.
McCallum has handled the kicking duties ever since. He’s two-of-four on field goals and 10-of-11 on extra points overall this season and he kicked the game-winner against Northwestern.
Dewitt said there isn’t anything Pickering needs to prove beyond good health before the coaches would feel comfortable inserting him into a game.
“No, I think we all know that he can kick in a game,” Dewitt said. “It’s just we have to make sure he’s healthy enough to be able to do it. I don’t want to expose a kid to injury if it’s not needed to do that.”
Dewitt said Pickering is in play to possibly make his debut this week but didn’t say anything definitive.
Pickering’s career got off to a slow start as he missed three of his first six kicks as a freshman, but he settled in from there and made 11 of his last 12 field goal attempts including his last 10.
Dewitt said they’re limiting his range as they continue to work him back into the mix.
“You want to make sure you’re not stressing it out and creating all that sheer force on his leg before he’s ready to do that,” Dewitt said. “So you slowly reintegrate him back into it.”
Pickering played as a true freshman, which means he still has his redshirt available. With five games left to play in the regular season, Dewitt said whether or not Nebraska takes advantage of that and limits him to four games depends on how the rest of the season plays out.
“I don’t know, that’s all going to depend upon how the season progresses I think and we’ve got to play it every week,” Dewitt said. “He said he’s willing to do whatever we need to do.”
Regardless of who handles the place-kicking duties, Dewitt confirmed that back-up punter William Przystup will continue to kick off against Indiana. The transfer from Michigan State took over for Jorgensen in week two and has held that role ever since, averaging 62 yards on 26 kickoffs with 10 touchbacks.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.