Taking to the inside of Memorial Stadium once again, the Nebraska coaching staff took much of the practice time working on situational drills. 3rd and short, goal-line and red-zone work, the Husker offense tried to hone their skills on getting the ball up-field. Head coach, Bill Callahan called today a success or as much of one considering how far Nebraska has yet to go before the start of the season. "We had a lot of good work." Callahan stated of the situational progress. "We need to continue to work in those areas to be the team we want to be, but we are at the point in training-camp now where guys are working hard, the legs are pretty much like rubber now and we're just trying to get them back the next few days. So, when we come out of pads here at the end of the week, we'll be fresh and ready to go when school begins."
The injury bug that has plagued NU to such an extent seemingly over the last week actually got a break towards the good side today, strong safety Daniel Bullocks returning to the field following a viral infection and linebacker Corey McKeon returning following a concussion.
That leaves several players still out, but with some like nose tackle LeKevin Smith, his return from cramps and a contusion to a calf muscle could be any day. "It's day-to-day right now." Callahan stated. "We're just going to have to look at it tonight and see where he's at. If he's ready to go, we'll certainly play him and if he's not, we'll back him down for another day."
Another player that has been practicing, but in significantly limited fashion is center, Richie Incognito. Missing some time due to a reported viral infection amongst other things, Incognito has been slowed in making a full recovery up to this point. Callahan stated though, that Incognito is making it back, but it is his back that is slowing things down somewhat as well. "There's some issues relative to his back, so he's in a little bit of a pain and he's pushing through a lot of different problems right now, but he continues to work and we're glad he's out here."
Incognito represents probably the only sure-thing in regards to someone that has cemented their spot on the offensive line. While the coaches have conceded nothing as to any line-up being "firm" or not, his presence (if healthy) seems obvious. It's his "game" that the coaches respect most and Callahan commented that, that is what he can't wait to see out of the starting center once he's back to full speed. "He leads by example." Callahan stated. "He's a high motor guy. He's energetic, he's tough, he's physical - he loves to finish plays."
"You couldn't have a better example from a player on the field than that. You can talk all you want, but talk is cheap. You got to get out there and you have to do it and he does that and at a high level."
One area that no doubt takes a high level of play if not a high level of concentration is the two-minute drill, something Nebraska worked on a lot today. Putting their quarterbacks in hurry-up situations, Callahan said that this was an opportune time for his field-generals to gain a little more insight as to just how things are done. "It's a great learning situation today." Callahan stated. "We tried to put them in positions and situations that are adverse and very game-like."
"For instance today, we put forty-five seconds on the clock without no timeouts left - we put the ball on the fifty-yard line and we let Joe Dailey manage the team. Those are tough situations for a quarterback to be in."
"It was good to see that he managed it. You are going to make some errors obviously and you are going to learn from them, but the great things is that you get repetition, you get practice in those types of situations."
One quarterback that has seemingly found him on the outside looking in with just about all situations with the offense is that of Junior, Mike Stuntz. While involved with the offense in most drills, Stuntz hasn't been a feature like that of Dailey, Goodman or Davis. And, possibly because of that Stuntz has been looking around, even working out at different spots. Today, it was special teams. "Bill's talked about it." Callahan stated of Bill Busch talking about using Stuntz on special teams. "We've batted it around the staff-room a little bit. We want to do anything we can to get him involved as much as we can in some fashion."
"He's a great kid and he's a high-character person and he's shows the athleticism to play a lot of positions. He's very confident as a quarterback. Unfortunately, we are working with a couple of guys ahead of him and when he gets that opportunity to take advantage of it.."
"As of right now, we are trying to get him into as many situations as we can. We are trying to work him into any facet where he can contribute to our team."
For Nebraska, players moving around seems like old-hat in just a brief amount of times. Players moving to positions either in hopes they will contribute better in that area versus another or in cases like Adam Carriker, because injuries simply leave you little choice.
Another player that has moved mostly because of the injuries that have taken place on the interior defensive line is that of Benard Thomas over to the spot vacated by Carriker's move inside. It's a move that might be permanent, but Callahan said that nothing is certain right now. "Based on our tackle situation right now - as we talked about we are a little thin there." he said. "We moved Adam inside and give him some repetition. I know that "Cos" and John Blake feel very confident about that move if it were to be full-time."
"Benard gives you the ability to come off the edge with power. He does have an excellent power rush - he can knock tackles back. Of course, he does have the speed rush as well, so when you combine those two moves, you have a pretty well rounded end."
"Then of course, we can bring Wali Muhammad in and get a real pure speed-rusher off the edge in the "nickel" and put Benard on the other side, we we've got a lot of possibilities and a lot of different combinations."
There's little doubt that over the next week and a half Nebraska will experiment with yet more players and yet more combinations as they try to hone the offense and defense into what they deem ideal for the up-coming opener.
Tomorrow is "hump day" for the players as they will now reach the half-way point of two-a-days, so after those sessions conclude, it's the home-stretch for the Huskers.
Make sure to be at Memorial Stadium this Saturday for "Fan Day", where fans from all over the state and beyond are welcome to attend, take pictures of their favorite Huskers, get autographs and even talk a bit with players or coaches that they might have only seen on TV.
The gates open on the 21st at 1:00 and will go until 2:30. It's always good to pay attention to the weather forecasts as recent years have been hot, so make sure to be prepared for whatever you might see.
Also, be respectful that this is an event geared towards parents and their children. Limit the number of items you want to have signed as lines are usually quite long and can become rather hard to endure if the weather should be less than ideal.
Punter, Sam Koch was awarded a scholarship two days ago according to Bill Callahan. A walk-on since he arrived at Nebraska in 2001, Koch now exists as one of the 85 allowable scholarships for the team.
Ryan Goodman is known more for his wrestling prowess than his feats on the football field, but the gridiron fans won't have to worry about which one will get the full attention this year for Goodman. Goodman stated that he plans to redshirt this year for wrestling so he can get ready for wrestling at his target weight of 197 lbs. Goodman stated that he's currently 195.
Steve Ryan can be reached at SteveRyan@bigredreport.com or 402-476-5006