"It's good to be able to practice in this." Those were the words of defensive coordinator, Kevin Cosgrove as he recapped the third day of in-season practice for Nebraska. The good part you'd assume is for anyone other than the players, but it's especially for the players that heat like this serves a purpose. "The heat can be a distraction." Cosgrove said. "As an offense, defense and special teams group, you have to keep your concentration."
That's one distraction that the coaches welcome and they also welcome the continuing persistence absence of another, that being of course the injuries. While Nebraska was without both Darren DeLone and Jay Moore for yesterday's practice, Cosgrove stated that the state of health was almost ideal. "We're a pretty healthy team." he said. "We're fortunate that at this time just finishing up camp, we are a very fortunate team."
The defense has been in need of good fortunes having had to deal with a good deal of the injuries during the preparations for the up-coming season. During that time, Nebraska has been without at some points starting defensive tackle - LeKevin Smith, back-up defensive tackle - Brandon Teamer, Rush End - Jay Moore, Cornerback - Lornell McPherson, Strong Safety - Shane Siegel, Linebacker - Corey McKeon, Rush End - Kevin Luhrs, Strong Safety - Daniel Bullocks. Add to that the loss of Defensive Tackle, Brandon Greeson, what players that have been healthy the entire time have gotten opportunities to play.
One player that has taken advantage of that is cornerback, Cortney Grixby who continues to shine and Cosgrove stated that he appeared to be a solid candidate for a spot on the two-deep come the home-opener.
Grixby is a rarity though, because as Cosgrove stated, you never know just what you are going to get out of any of the true freshman you see. "Every kid that comes in is totally different." he said "Some kids are ready mentally but not physically. Some are ready physically but not mentally. It's the kid that has both those ingredients that has the opportunity to play."
Opportunities seem to be a premium when it comes to the defensive side of the ball. As talented as players like Cortney Grixby are, when you are talking about a defense returning that ranked as one of the best in the country a year prior, getting on the field even as a back-up isn't easy.
Just ask Benard Thomas, a starter last year, but beaten out for now by Jay Moore for the position opposite Adam Carriker. Cosgrove did say though that even at this point, that position and its order isn't a done deal. "I tell you what, it's been a great battle." he said. "Benard had an outstanding camp and really played well."
"That's what it's all about - competition at positions and that is one position we have tremendous competition. They are both playing very well, so tough decisions are going to have to be made very soon."
It's one decision that has been made somewhat easier, at least for now with the current absence of Moore due to a high ankle-sprain that is considered at this time "day-to-day"in its progression.
That progression continues along with the teams as they take the field tomorrow afternoon as they continue preparations for the first game of the year. The weather will be somewhat better or worse, depending on who you are, temperatures expected to reach only in the mid to high 70s with a 30 percent chance of thunder showers late in the afternoon.
The extended forecast to the day of the game has the weather projected to be in the lower to mid-80s with the skies expected to be clear for the entire evening.
Steve Ryan can be reached at SteveRyan@bigredreport.com or 402-730-5619