Cotton Bowl Preparations Continue

While this is an institution of higher learning, the coaches don't mind when finals are done and they can get the entire team in for a good practice. Nebraska inched closer to that today, absent the nine seniors who were graduating today. That's good for the younger guys as they continue to get a lot of reps as the team prepares for Auburn.

You probably don't want to practice too many times without players like Zac Taylor, Adam Carriker and Jay Moore. The good side to that, though, is the younger guys getting a lot of reps they might not otherwise have gotten.

Offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Jay Norvell said that it was really good for those backing up Nebraska's senior QB. "Joey Ganz got all the reps with the ones and did a phenomenal job," Norvell said. "Beau Davis got a lot of reps. So, it was a good practice for those guys to get a lot of opportunities,"

The bad side to that is when players have the chance to get those reps, but can't participate due to injury. The backfield for Nebraska has been stricken by the injury bug it would seem. This should be the time where backs like Kenny Wilson and others should be getting a ton of time, but due to what Norvell described as an "inflammation", Wilson couldn't go today. "Luckily we don't play this week or even next week, so we've got some time to get those guys back on the practice field," he said.

"It's a concern right now until we get them all back on the field, because it puts a lot of stress on a couple of guys who are healthy."

As it stands right now, along with Wilson being out, sophomore running back Cody Glenn is out with a midfoot sprain, and it's undetermined at this time as to when he'll return. Junior running back Brandon Jackson is limited with a broken hand, and Jackson said that it will be close to two weeks before he's allowed to wear a different type of brace, which won't limit him as much in regard to carrying the ball.

One of the continuing bright spots over these practices and for the entire season has been freshman cornerback and special teams machine, Rickey Thenarse. Along with being named the special teams player of the year, Thenarse's reps at corner have increased as the weeks have wore along.

Defensive Coordinator Kevin Cosgrove has been continually encouraged by his development and cited just the increased opportunities to play as one of the biggest reasons Thenarse is doing as well as he is. "He's getting more reps than he's ever gotten in practice, that's for sure, but that's what these practices are for," Cosgrove said. "I'm not going to make any predictions about playing him more or anything like that, but we are trying to get him ready, so we'll just see how it goes."

Thenarse has seemingly climbed the ladder, but it would seem that junior cornerback Andre Jones has not. Jones has been practicing the last two days without the black jersey, signifying that he is a member of the starting group on defense. Cosgrove wouldn't comment as to whether Jones was or wasn't demoted or as to why Jones didn't have the blackshirt on anymore.

Nebraska will resume practice tomorrow, continuing on what head coach Bill Callahan called the fundamental period, where the younger players are getting valuable time on the field. And on Tuesday is when the team will really start to focus in on Auburn.

Notes: As you may have heard reported, the University of Auburn has recently suspended three players for the up coming Cotton Bowl. Sophomore running back Brad Lester, freshman linebacker Tray Blackmon and senior linebacker Kevin Sears will not be participating in this game for violating team rules.

The loss of Lester is potentially the most devastating for the team, the sophomore ranking as Auburn's second leading rusher with 510 yards on 104 carries and nine touchdowns. Lester was also a weapon for the Tigers on special teams, amassing 158 yards on just six kickoff returns.

Blackmon was a starter for the Tigers, though, he missed six games during the season. During his time on the field Blackmon totaled 18 tackles, including 2.5 for loss.

Sears had 13 tackles on the year

Irons is obviously Auburn's main horse at running the ball, but junior linebacker Corey McKeon said that losing Lester is no small thing. "He was a big time back," McKeon said of Lester. "Irons is the complete package, but Lester was a real solid back for them. It's one less thing for us to pay attention to, but when you look at Irons, him getting more reps just means you have to figure out more ways to stop him, and that's not easy. That kid is good."

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