David Santos

It's undoubtedly true that last fall didn't go as fast as those recent autumns when David Santos was flying around Texas football fields being an offense's nightmare.

Time flies when you're busy making 136 tackles, as Santos did his senior year at Klein Collins High School.

So consider last year in Lincoln a significant change. He watched as a redshirt, eagerly waiting.

Waiting for a weekend like the one ahead.

"It's not really about what I want. It's a team thing. If the coaches want to go with another guy it's fine with me," Santos said this week. "(But) you're always waiting on your chance, and you keep working hard at it, and this is my chance."

Yes, it's most likely Husker fans are going to get their first serious look at Santos on Saturday against Arkansas State.

The 6-foot, 220-pounder has been practicing at the No. 1 WILL linebacker spot this week, switching repetitions with junior college newcomer Zaire Anderson, another player Nebraska fans are eager to see play.

Santos may not have played last year, but he tried to mentally prepare as if he was going to.

That's the only way, he figures, that a guy makes his mark at this level.

"You always have to be ready for something mentally new. Each day they throw something new on the table," Santos said. "Just got to be mentally dialed in every day."

It was late this spring when Santos said he thought the light bulb really went on for him with this Husker defense.

"Mentally I had the game down," Santos said. "I figured just keep improving over the summer and over fall camp and I figured I'd get my shot eventually."

That confidence translated to fall camp, where it didn't go unnoticed by linebackers coach Ross Els.

Els noted even in the early days of fall camp that Santos seemed much more comfortable, which led to faster play.

"I've really been impressed with him this fall as far as his desire to get to the ball quicker than what he's done in the past," Els said.

That progress continued through camp, with Bo Pelini saying during the final couple weeks of August that Santos was providing a good push to starter Alonzo Whaley.

Santos said he's gained a lot from watching and talking with the veteran linebackers -- with seniors such as Whaley, Will Compton and Sean Fisher.

"They know the tempo of the game," Santos said. "You want to get with them to affiliate yourself with the game better. Just trying to learn from them as much as you can."

Some good meetings there.

Better than the one Monday, when linebackers got together after an embarrassing last week in which Nebraska gave up 653 yards of offense.

You can guess the mood.

"Disgust," Santos said. "We knew we were better than that. We watched film and we learned from it. Improving in our fundamentals and tackling and stuff. Coach Bo's put a big emphasis on that."

Santos will likely get a chance to show all he's learned Saturday.

And the wait to get here? Not always easy, but he figures it worth it.

"You develop a lot redshirting and stuff," he said. "I think it helped in the end."

Reach Brian Christopherson at bchristopherson@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. You can follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.


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