Husker linebackers coach Ross Els said newcomer Nathan Gerry will play either linebacker or safety, but not switch between positions this season.
“I think with a true freshman, we need to keep him at one spot,” Els said after Thursday night's practice. “Just to be fair to him, so he can be successful.”
If the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Gerry sticks at linebacker, he’ll more than likely play the dime position, the same way coaches used Corey Cooper last season.
Els said Gerry is fast, athletic, smart and provides strong coverage.
“He’s a better coverage guy than the guys we have at linebacker right now,” Els said. “Those guys are over some tight ends that are pretty darned good we see throughout the year, so it’s nice to have him available.”
Els was eager to evaluate film from Thursday night’s scrimmage and see how Gerry performed.
“After Saturday, we’ve really got to start locking guys into positions,” he said, “so we’ll know a lot more on Monday.”
* SUIT 'EM UP: Offensive coordinator Tim Beck said he “absolutely” is considering playing both true freshman running backs Terrell Newby and Adam Taylor in the opener.
“It’s kind of hard to describe them, but they bring energy,” the coach said. “They run hard. Obviously, they have different styles. But they’re both extremely effective.”
They’re both good in pass-protection, the coach said. Taylor is a little farther along than Newby in that regard.
“Assignmentwise, there are still some mistakes,” Beck said. “Sometimes, when there’s a mistake, you wonder, ‘OK, is he a bad pass-blocker or did he make a mistake and block the wrong guy?’ But those guys do a good job.”
* EFFECTIVE EMPHASIS: To what extent is Nebraska emphasizing a reduction in turnovers?
Let’s put it this way: Even the linemen are involved — both offensive and defensive.
“The biggest thing is, we’re all watching ball security,” Beck said. “It’s not necessarily a guy fumbling. It’s a guy who’s not carrying the ball right — and letting him know. The linemen do it. We’ve even had the defensive guys say it. The (defensive) coaches harp on it.”
All the harping is working, Beck said.
“I think we’ve done pretty good so far,” he said. “I’m pleased with the progress.”
* D-LINE BRUISES: The Nebraska defensive line has some players “nicked up,” assistant Rick Kaczenski said.
Asked specifically about defensive ends Greg McMullen and Randy Gregory — who walked off the field without pads Tuesday and Thursday — Kaczenski said head coach Bo Pelini is the guy to ask about injuries. Kaczenski did say none of the D-line injuries were serious.
He spoke with a sense of urgency. He said the injured players have an “obligation” to return as quickly as possible.
“Hey, the train’s the moving,” he said. “We can’t call Wyoming or Southern Miss or UCLA. It is what it is. It’s given us a chance to throw some guys in the fire and see what they know and see what they can do.
“I think we might’ve found some guys we possibly weren’t counting on, or some guys who give us a little more depth.”
* RECEIVER RUNDOWN: Tyler Wullenwaber and Taariq Allen, two receivers who suffered season-ending ACL injuries last year, continue to progress well, position coach Rich Fisher said.
“Wully’s doing good, obviously better than I expected at this point,” Fisher said.
Allen is “tweaked up a little bit right now,” Fisher said, but is expected to be full-go soon. Junior Jamal Turner did not practice Thursday but Fisher seemed in good spirits about the health of his group.
“We’re healthy,” Fisher said. “We’re in good shape.”
Bo Pelini will next speak to the media Saturday with full updates on any injured players.
* TRYING OUT NEW TURF: The Huskers practiced for the first time on the new turf inside Memorial Stadium on Thursday night, the lights shining down on what is now a much more intimidating venue.
“Anytime you get an opportunity to come in this stadium especially, and drive into that parking lot, it’s a big deal for me,” Kaczenski said. “You walk through that tunnel and just kind of look up at the names and imagine all the people in here, it’s pretty special.”
Kaczenski said Thursday’s practice in the stadium was also good for the young players.
“Sometimes you kind of take it for granted, we get used to it," Kaczenski said. “These guys walk through that tunnel and all of a sudden they get that deer-in-the-headlights look. So it’s good to get in here, good to get on the new turf. You can’t simulate gameday but this is about as close as you can get without people in the stands.”
— Brian Rosenthal, Brian Christopherson and Steven M. Sipple