Nebraska standout running back Ameer Abdullah made the most out of his knee injury this spring.
Even so, he said, it was "real tough" watching teammates in scrimmages, he told reporters after Wednesday's practice.
"I'm a pretty fiery guy," he said. "Seeing the defense make a play, I was like, 'Ah, I wish I was in there just to shut them up.' But it's been good for me to watch from the sideline for once, and also help coach the guys."
Abdullah, who rushed for 1,137 yards (5.0 per carry) and eight touchdowns last season, has spent most of the past month rehabilitating a knee injury that occurred March 9 in practice. The injury isn't considered serious. He understands the rehabilitation process, and says Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini "is really looking out for me" by holding him out of practices until August.
If the Huskers had a game Saturday, he could play, Abdullah said.
During the Red-White Spring Game on Saturday, however, he will cheer on his teammates. He wants to see them improve. He also wants to keep improving.
Watching practice from the sideline gives him a better understanding of the playbook, he said. He also better understands why coaches harp on certain things.
In fact, Abdullah now regards his injury as a positive development, especially in light of fellow running back Braylon Heard leaving the team in January.
"We really need the younger guys to come along," Abdullah said. "Being hurt was kind of a blessing in disguise for those guys. They got a chance to step up and show what they can do. And I had a chance to coach those guys."
He did feel almost like a coach, saying he was "into it."
"I really felt like I made an impact, helping out with certain schemes and helping (the running backs) understand certain blocking situations and blitzes -- all the things that come with being a running back," he said.
Sophomore Imani Cross has spent the spring trying to prove he can be an every-down back. Cross, used mostly as a situational back last season, is his biggest critic, according to teammates and coaches. Cross studies hard. He mostly needs repetition and experience in the offense, and in the video room, Abdullah said.
The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Cross has gained confidence and looks quicker, partly the result of losing about 15 pounds since last season. What's more, Cross is making quicker decisions, Abdullah said.
The 5-9 Abdullah, meanwhile, has increased his weight to about 195 pounds after playing in the 184-188 range last season. He definitely looks game-ready, even though he has been unable to practice.
"I missed out on a lot of reps I needed," he said. "It set me back. But I always try to find that extra time when I'm away from the field to work on my game … You can always get better as a running back."