Jordan both catiously optimistic and "geeked"

The shoes of Brandon Jackson will be hard to fill, but going into the second day of spring practice, that's just what a host of backs are trying to do. The landscape has changed with new faces and old faces not completely healthy. But that's where you start, and it's better starting with something rather than going into spring with nothing.

At one point in time there was a question as to just how running back coach Randy Jordan was going to spread the ball around to all of those backs. Today, following the second day of spring practice, where the team donned shoulder pads, Jordan looked around and smiled. Not because he was so deep in backs, but because it seems that once again he has a lot of backs….for now.

"I'll take all the backs I can get. Give me 20, I'll take them," Jordan said.

One would understand his laughing in the face of frustration, the position coach recalling how quickly things went from having what was called an overflow to scraping to find backs that could play. And now, even with having junior running backs Cody Glenn and Marlon Lucky back, along with converted cornerback, sophomore Major Culbert and true freshman Marcus Mendoza, this is one coach that doesn't feel safe. "You know, people asked me last year ‘How are you going to play all these backs?'," Jordan said. "And there I am during the season looking around because I don't have enough."

"It's an NFL season. It's a 13-14-game season. As many backs as we can have, that's what I want. You can never have too many. I'm greedy."

He might say he's greedy, but based on last year you'd call it looking ahead. Toward the end of the season, the four-back stable which proved to be prolific and proficient, was reduced to a hobbling mass. Junior Kenny Wilson was out with a knee infection. Sophomore Marlon Lucky was day-to-day with back spasms. Sophomore Cody Glenn was out with a mid-foot sprain. And Brandon Jackson was hampered with a broken hand.

It was no wonder former prep running back Major Culbert was brought over to the running back side, if only to give the offense some reps without wearing out what able backs there were. Now that Culbert has been moved there again for the spring, Jordan said that's where he'd like him to stay. "I hope we can keep him on our side, but I know he's a wanted man. I know "Coz" likes him also," Jordan said.

It's been over a year since Culbert finished his prep season, ending his career with a 2,000 yard season. At just over 6 foot tall, Culbert has the size and the athleticism for this job. What Jordan remarked about him as to a few things he liked the best about the sophomore, was that he reminded him, at least physically, of someone he knew intimately during his time in the NFL. "His bottom end reminds me of myself when I played a little bit," Jordan said. "I love those guys like Cory Ross, and the good backs like Emmit Smith and Barry Sanders – they're bottom-heavy. He (Culbert) has great lowers, he has good vision and he's really hungry to learn the offense."

Also receiving kudos from the fourth year collegiate running back coach was freshman Marcus Mendoza. Actually, kudos might be an understatement. "I'm REALLY geeked up about him. I am really geeked up," Jordan said emphatically. "He's a guy that's fast, he's quick, he's explosive (and) he's a smooth runner. He can catch, and he's a little undersized, but I tell you, the one thing I like about him is that once he makes a decision to make a cut, he gets it up and down in the hole.

"Anywhere on the field, he can go to the house. If he can make one or two guys miss, I don't think there's anyone that can catch him. I'm not crowning him the Don Juan of running backs, but he has a bright future here."

When it comes to his overall stable of backs, Jordan said that he liked how it looks initially. With Glenn practicing, but still not completely healed and Wilson obviously still out with the infection, that puts the burden on Lucky and the rest of the backs to take up the slack. But Jordan said of Glenn, that while he hopes Glenn to be completely healthy after spring is done, if he's in pads, he's going to see plenty of contact. "He looks good. He's finishing," Jordan said. "He's not where you want to be in terms of conditioning, because he hasn't done a lot. His foot – he's making it through. Hopefully, by the end of the spring, you can see a full healthy Cody Glenn, which I am kind of excited to see."

As to Lucky, the assumed heir apparent to Brandon Jackson, with all the time he's had in the system, Jordan 's expectations of him aren't small. "I challenged him to be an all-purpose back," he said. "You have to be able to catch, you have to be able to block (and) you have to be able to run. His knowledge of the system is one that now there are no excuses."

Knocking on wood, the relative landscape of the position for Jordan is fairly positive at this point. With two new faces who are healthy and two veteran faces who are as well or at least, on their way, Jordan said he's optimistic about the future.

But don't try pigeon-holing a starter, because he insisted there isn't one and won't be anytime soon. "The door isn't closed. There aren't two store owners here, and I am the only one holding the key," Jordan said after being asked if anyone has cemented themselves ahead of anyone else. "If Marcus comes in here and lights it up in the spring and the fall, he's got a chance."

Nebraska will resume practice tomorrow and will for the first time this spring throw on the full pads. The practice will be followed by the annual Youth Experience, where coaches and players teach youngsters from around the area, some of the finer points of football.


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