LINCOLN, Neb. – After two weeks off, the Nebraska football team returned to the practice field on Friday to start their preparation for an upcoming matchup with UCLA in the Foster Farms Bowl.
“The thing we talked about today which was my main message was we have a great opportunity,” said head coach Mike Riley. “All we are doing is focused on winning the game…that is our focus. We need to win and get ready to win. We need to be all parts engaged. It’s one more great opportunity. We have had a couple of them in the last month.”
Nebraska will have to contend with UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen. A true freshman, the No. 1 quarterback in the Scout.com 2015 class has grown throughout the season, finishing with 20 touchdowns and nearly a 60 percent completion rate.
“He’s improved a lot over the season,” said Nebraska defensive tackle Maliek Collins. “You can tell it in his decision making. You can really see them grow as the season went on when you watch them.”
At 5-7, the topic of whether Nebraska deserved to be in a bowl game reared it’s head again, this time directed to the players speaking for the first time since the Iowa postgame.
“I personally feel we definitely earned it,” said junior wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp. “We were close in every game. We never got blown out. We beat a team in the final four. We almost beat a team in Iowa who is highly thought of and highly ranked. We were neck and neck with every team we played.”
Despite playing on December 26, Nebraska also drew a solid opponent in UCLA, who was ranked inside the top ten at one point in the season.
“They will be a great opponent. We are looking forward to it,” said Westerkamp. “Guys are going to be focused. If we don’t get our mind right, we could get beat pretty well. I know these guys won’t let that happen.”
* Collins said he did request a projection from the NFL, but is only focused on UCLA at the moment.
* Nebraska junior defensive tackle Vincent Valentine is also gathering information about possibly heading to the NFL, but Riley said no decision or timeline has been made. The two will talk after a bowl game and the junior also requested a projection by the NFL.
* Valentine and senior cornerback Daniel Davie were not seen at the beginning of practice on Friday. I also did not see senior running back Imani Cross. The Huskers practiced at 2:30, a little earlier than normal. It’s very likely multiple players had class.
* Nebraska wide receiver Alonzo Moore (shoulder) did practice after being questionable earlier in the week. One player who did not practice was linebacker Dedrick Young.
* Riley indicated one player is no longer on the Nebraska roster, but said a name would be released down the road.
* Nebraska junior defensive back Charles Jackson was dressed out for the first time in a long time and the former four-star was practicing with the second practice squad, consisting mostly of redshirt freshman and walk-ons.
* I asked Nebraska defensive tackle Mick Stoltenberg what he was weighing these days. He said he thought he was around 288, after playing much of the season around 280. Stoltenberg said he wants to be 300 in spring football to see if he loses anything off his step. If he does, he will cut weight in the summer.
* Nebraska officials Cameron Goode (linebacker) and Tony Butler (defensive back) were both at practice. The other two official visitors this weekend have basketball games tonight.
* Players really rally around Sam Foltz at practices. I don’t think I have ever seen a punter with as much stock among teammates. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as a captain next year.
* Nebraska running back Terrell Newby is from the Los Angeles area and was heavily recruited out of UCLA. This game is extra special for the junior, who knows quite a few guys on the Bruins’ roster. More regarding Newby’s story in the coming days.