Sam Burtch isn’t really a depth chart-watcher.
He’s honestly not concerned with unseating the likes of Kenny Bell and Quincy Enunwa this spring.
It’s probably a realistic approach for a sophomore walk-on with zero career catches.
But here’s the funny part: Burtch has actually been working with Nebraska’s top wide receivers in spring practice.
“I’m having fun, playing ball,” said Burtch, who’s from rural Murdock. “I’m with the 1s right now, so it’s a better opportunity than I thought I would get.”
That still hasn’t changed his stance on position battles, otherwise a common storyline this time of the year.
“I’m taking it day-by-day. I don’t really focus on, like, beating out anybody,” Burtch said. “I’m just focused on the fundamentals and what I can to improve on myself. I’m more internal than looking at how I can beat out somebody else.”
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Burtch has been getting more looks this spring because of injuries that have sidelined Taariq Allen and Tyler Wullenwaber. He’s made the most of those chances, too.
Nebraska wide receivers coach Rich Fisher said Burtch began showing signs of play-making ability last season, when he started to better understand the offense and played multiple positions. Burtch saw action in four games.
“He’s got deceptive speed. He’s faster than you think,” Fisher said. “You watch him run on some go-routes sometimes, and he’s running by some pretty fast guys. He’s a big guy, strong guy. He’s got really good ball skills.
“He’s just a good, overall, college football player. He does all the little things right. He’s physical at the point of attack when he’s blocking, can get open off the line of scrimmage.”
Blocking, Burtch said, is why he feels he’s even in the conversation for playing time. Admitting that he’s “not really burning anybody,” Burtch said he enjoys physical contact, and that blocking comes naturally for him.
“It’s nothing I shy away from,” said Burtch, who played tight end at Elmwood-Murdock High School, where he caught 44 passes and was named Class C-2 all-state as a senior. “I was tiny, but I was still bigger than most guys, so I’m used to blocking people. I enjoy it a lot. I enjoy blocking better than I do catching a touchdown, actually.”
Burtch said he needs to become even more physical. He’s also working on footwork and release drills, while taking tips from the veterans on effective route running.
While Burtch knows all positions, he’s most likely to challenge for time at ‘X’ and ‘Z’ behind Bell and Enunwa.
“I’m really comfortable at both,” Burtch said. “I came in learning the ‘X’ because it’s easier to learn one before you learn the other, and I kind of adjusted to ‘Z’ in the fall, and now I’m comfortable with both.”
Where, or if, Burtch figures into a playing rotation this fall remains to be seen, said Fisher, noting Nebraska has more than 30 practices before the Aug. 31 opener against Wyoming.
In addition to Burtch, Fisher mentioned Brandon Reilly and Jordan Westerkamp as younger players who’ve stood out, at times, this spring.
“I think there’s definitely three guys who’ve proven day-in and day-out that they’re worthy of getting in there and playing a lot of minutes,” Fisher said, referring to the starters, “and I think there are a number of guys who are starting to show me that, ‘Hey, you need to take notice.’"