Of the many improvements Rich Fisher has been pleased to see his wide receivers make this season, yards after catches ranks near the top.
“You didn’t see a lot of that last year,” said the wide receivers coach after Wednesday's practice.
Kenny Bell, for example, broke tackles and outran defenders as he slanted his way into the end zone, accounting for the final 10 to 15 yards of a 25-yard touchdown pass from Taylor Martinez in the second quarter of the 42-13 win over Arkansas State.
“I think a lot of that (running) has to do with a better quarterback in terms of understanding of the offense and timing and anticipation and getting the ball out early, and (receivers) running the correct routes,” Fisher said.
Quincy Enunwa, who’s also displayed a knack for yards after contact, nearly broke free for a touchdown similar to Bell’s.
“He was upset that he didn’t get into the end zone on that out route,” Fisher said. “But he’s a violent runner with the ball.”
* Whaley watch: Last Saturday's opportunities for Zaire Anderson and David Santos at the WILL linebacker spot meant limited action for Alonzo Whaley, who started the first two games at the position.
But don't lose sight of Whaley. With Anderson suffering a torn ACL, the senior is in the mix with Santos at the spot this week. And moving forward, defensive coordinator John Papuchis said Whaley still has "a key role" in Nebraska's base defense — something the Huskers figure to use more of once it gets to Big Ten play.
"Alonzo's got a good attitude," Papuchis said. "He sees himself as a team leader. He's taken everything in stride. Alonzo knew why things played out the way they played out. And he knows we love him and respect him.
"It has nothing to do with who he is as a guy. We were just trying to switch things up and look for some different combinations to give us success."
* Showing toughness: Husker linebackers coach Ross Els was as impressed as anyone that Zaire Anderson played last Saturday's football game with a torn ACL — unknown at the time.
“He’s a tough kid," Els said. "It was bothering him, but even our medical staff and Zaire didn’t realize the extent that it was hurt. I know it’s a very serious injury, but he’s going to be fine with this thing once we get it operated on. But it just shows his toughness and his want-to as far as being on the field."
Els said he didn't notice the injury holding Anderson back on defense against Arkansas State.
But there was one place where the coach thought Anderson didn't quite seem himself.
"I noticed it on kickoff coverage," Els said. "He wasn’t getting down as fast as some other guys."
* Red rose: Husker coaches continue to evaluate true freshmen linebackers like Thomas Brown and Michael Rose, keeping them prepared in case they're needed this season.
Rose has not yet been sent down to the scout team, Els said.
“We’re going to continue to give him reps. Very intelligent player. (He) can play inside the box. So he could possibly play this year, too.”
* Like a video game: Through two games, Idaho State has attempted 121 passes and run the ball 59 times, an imbalance characteristic of coach Mike Kramer’s teams.
“We’re putting up some video game-like numbers in our offense, simply because it’s the way we want to play,” said Kramer, who’s also coached at Montana State and Eastern Washington.
“The quarterbacking in the United States is at an all-time high. I’m going to credit Xbox and PlayStation for it, because a lot of our guys are more prepared to understand what defenses are about than ever before.”
Quarterback Kevin Yost threw for 2,973 yards last season and set a school record with 47 completions in one game. Receiver Derek Graves has caught 15 passes in each of ISU’s first two games, and will likely come off the bench Saturday with All-Big Sky receiver Rodrick Rumble, on the preseason Walter Payton Award watch list, will likely return after missing the season’s first two games.
“We love the geometry of the sport in that we can throw the ball in all the alleys, the angles, all the hidden areas on a field,” said Kramer, noting he prefers to throw even on third-and-short. “We try to utilize every square inch of the field and spread the defense out as far out as possible and find some running space in between all those defenders.”