LINCOLN, Neb. - A day after it was learned wide receiver De'Mornay Pierson-El would miss likely six to eight weeks with a broken foot, Nebraska special teams coach Bruce Read talked about life with out the All-American punt returner.
According to Read, wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp will fill in for the time being, but in addition guys like true freshman Avery Anderson, junior Terrell Newby and senior Jamal Turner have received work at the position.
"I think he's (Westerkamp) is solid," said Read. "Very dependable. I'm very happy with him. We felt like we had two solid kids and now one solid one and we are developing. It's very important we keep him healthy and keep him back there, so we can make it look like football."
As a true freshman, Pierson-El recorded 34 returns, for 596 yards (17.5 average) and three touchdowns.
"He tracks the ball so well, he will catch a punt that most guys would not even...they will back off," said Read. "He's got an uncanny ability to make it look really easy."
Nebraska's improvements in the punt return game from 2013 to 2014 are well documented, but Read says it might not have been all because of Pierson-El.
"I think they rallied around him," said Read. "As soon as you get one, I think it catches fire. All of a sudden the guys are blocking are elevated. The guy running is elevated. They all feel this energy. It really took fire and he ignited it, but it seems like both groups fed off each other."