Freeman a focus for Huskers

Nebraska concluded practices today as they prepare to face Kansas State . And if you are talking about the Wildcats, you eventually have to hit on one name: Sophomore quarterback Josh Freeman is an athletic player who has all the tools you can have. But as Head Coach Bill Callahan said, he's now really coming into his own.

If you saw Josh Freeman play last year, it wouldn't have been odd to hear the occasional remark that he might move to a position like tight end or even to the defensive side of the ball. 

It was his pure athleticism which astounded so many, Freeman being able to move in a straight line quickly, but he was just as elusive side-to-side. At 6-6, 250 pounds, he had the size and with his quickness, he was seen as one of those all-everything type of players. 

But not at quarterback 

But good to what analysts saw in him at the prep level, Freeman proved that he's right where he needs to be. And as good as he is right now, that's not even close to the finished product. "I think he's a guy who could potentially come out a year from now," Bill Callahan said of Freeman entering into the NFL. "He's really developed that well. He's a big strong guy, he's got a bazooka for an arm, it's pure, it's clean, it comes out fast and hard (and) it has a tight spin on the ball and it's accurate." 

The accuracy and decision-making process for Freeman has improved by leaps and bounds from his freshman year, where he was surviving on athleticism to make a lot of his plays. As a freshman Freeman threw 15 interceptions to only six touchdowns, completing just over 51 percent of his passes. This year he's thrown 10 interceptions, but he also has 12 touchdowns and his completion percentage has ballooned to 63.5. His yards per game in the passing game has also skyrocketed, Freeman averaging just under 162 yards per game last year versus 250.1 thus far during his sophomore campaign. 

It's the acclimation to what he's trying to do many see as why his improvement has been as dramatic in some areas as it has. He now understands exactly what he's supposed to be doing. "I think that is what everyone is looking for and he's done an excellent job leading his football team and you can see his maturation in the system in terms of his growth, his decision making," Callahan said. 

In addition to his improvement from the mental aspect of the game, Callahan saw just how much his physical side has become such a weapon in and of itself for defenses trying to get him to the ground. Often, it's not one player who can do it, rather the team needing two, three and sometimes more, just to stop him from making a play. It's yet another aspect of this young man's still developing talent which make him such a hard weapon to stop. "He's a tough customer to bring down. I have seen him ward off hits and blitzers and linemen that are draped on him," Callahan said. "He has the strength and ability to escape those types of rushes, and his height and the height of his release gives him clearly a distinct advantage when he's looking downfield to pick up a receiver." 

If all that isn't enough, Coach Callahan said that outside of the framework of what a quarterback is supposed to do, it's the other things that he does, which most can't do, which makes him a nightmare to defend. "He's made some remarkable throws on the move, across his body (and) against the grain," he said. "And also rolling out, throwing back against coverage, some of those plays, they are highlight type plays that you can put on your highlight reel. 

"He's done a great job. He's fun to watch and you can just see his growth. He's going to be a good quarterback and a heck of a challenge for us this Saturday." 

Nebraska will go through their walkthrough tomorrow and the game is scheduled to start at 11:30 A.M. on Saturday.

Bill Callahan said that while there would be some unofficial visitors, there would be no official visitors in for the game this weekend. During the bye-week, though, the Head Coach said that the assistants would be hitting almost 70 schools within the state, trying to evaluate the local talent. "We're just looking for players and looking for anyone that they think can contribute to the program and potentially, any and all walk-ons are certainly welcome," he said. "I think that's the message that's out there. (We) just want to double-check players that maybe have emerged their senior year and possibly have gotten better. So, we are looking at that aspect as well." 

Senior linebacker Bo Ruud practiced for the second straight day, Coach Callahan commenting that he's looked good during both sessions. But no official decision has been made as to whether or not he'll start this weekend. Freshman Blake Lawrence has been practicing all week, but his status is questionable as well. If neither can go, Nebraska will go with junior Tyler Wortman as the starter and freshman Latravis Washington at the number two spot.

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