Nebraska Football First Practice, 8.4.12

Safeties P.J. Smith and Daimion Stafford do more than just share the same position.

Last year, the two shared a room during the team's road trips. Apparently there were some serious tutoring sessions on those trips.

"We'd stay in the hotel and we'd sit there and I'd try to help him understand what (some defensive scheme) was," said the senior Smith. "And sometimes he was like, 'Dawg, I still don't get it.' But he was a playmaker, so he would go out and make plays."

Now, Smith says Stafford — who is also a senior, but was a newcomer as a junior college transfer last year — is more than just a playmaker. He's become a teacher, too.

"Now he's sitting with the younger guys in film meetings and telling them, 'Look, this is what you gotta do,'" Smith said. "And he's helping them understand why Coach (Terry Joseph) is asking us to do that. He's going to have a big year."

Despite the fact he was still trying to figure out things, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Stafford started the final 12 games last season, compiling 80 tackles and 10 pass breakups.

"He came and he was hungry," Smith said. "He stepped up to the plate, and he's a beast, man. You have to give it to him. He's a ball hawk. He loves the game. He's a hitter. He'd rather go and knock somebody's head off than get an interception. But he's a smart player."

* WALK-ON TALENT: The seven true freshman walk-ons on Nebraska's 105-man roster for preseason camp are easily the most in head coach Bo Pelini's five-season tenure.

In fact, the Huskers' preseason roster never has included more than two true freshman walk-ons in each of Pelini's previous four seasons, according to NU officials.

"We take the 105 best players to help us win," said Jeff Jamrog, NU associate athletic director for football operations. "You go by position. You go by who had the best summer and who will be best in practice."

The seven true freshman walk-ons are Brandon Reilly, wide receiver, Lincoln Southwest; Trey Foster, tight end, Lincoln Southeast; Sam Foltz, wide receiver, Grand Island; King Frazier, I-back, Lee's Summit, Mo.; Jordan Nelson, I-back, Omaha Burke; Graham Nabity, I-back, Elkhorn; and Andy Janovich, fullback, Gretna.

Nebraska has a total of 144 players, meaning 39 were left off the preseason roster.

"We understand some are disappointed," said Jamrog, who guides NU's walk-on program. "Those are tough decisions. It's a good problem to have."

* STAFF ADDITION: Austin Cassidy, a starting safety for Nebraska last season, is helping the coaching staff as a graduate manager. "He's kind of sitting back and learning," Pelini said. "He's kind of evaluating if coaching down the road is something he wants to do."

Meanwhile, NCAA rules now allow four graduate assistants. The Huskers' GAs are Joe Ganz (offense), Vince Marrow (offense), T.J. Hollowell (defense) and Jake Mandelko (defense). Jake's father, Mike Mandelko, was an All-Big Eight offensive guard for NU in 1982.

* LINEMAN LEAVES: Ryan Klachko, a redshirt freshman offensive lineman from Springfield, Ill., has decided to transfer, Pelini said. "We have a culture around here," the coach said. "If somebody doesn't feel like they fit into that culture for whatever reason. ... He decided to take his talents somewhere else. I wish him well."

* AWAITING GO-AHEAD: True freshmen Jared Afalava and Alfonzo Moore are waiting to be cleared academically by the NCAA before joining the team. "They're both day-to-day," Pelini said. "We're still waiting to hear back on some paperwork and some things that had to be re-filed with the NCAA, that type of thing."

* ROSTER NEWS: Todd Peat Jr., a redshirt freshman defensive tackle from Tempe, Ariz., is not on the preseason roster. A touted member of last year's recruiting class, he has battled back issues during the offseason. "That's part of it," Pelini said without elaborating.

* SEEN AND HEARD: Redshirt freshman Braylon Heard spent most of Saturday's practice at running back. He practiced at cornerback (mostly nickel) during the spring and impressed coaches, but that was before running back Aaron Green transferred to TCU. "We'll see how camp goes and how the season progresses," Pelini said. "We're prepared to use (Heard) a little bit on defense if need be."

* THIS AND THAT: Senior kicker Brett Maher said Jase Dean will be the holder this year for extra points and field goals. Cassidy handled those duties last season. … The Huskers sported new Adidas practice uniforms Saturday. Each uniform, looking better than some game uniforms you'll find, had three stripes (with a hint of black in them) above the shoulder pads with an N on the sleeves. The offense was in white, the defense in red. … The Huskers received a bit of a break from the summer heat Saturday, with the temperature only in the high 70s when the 11 a.m. practice began. … As has been done in the past to simulate noise, a loudspeaker on a cart was driven around while the offense took snaps. Among the pounding music from the speakers were tunes from AC/DC, Jay-Z and Kanye West. … About 25 media members were on hand to listen to Pelini talk Saturday after the first practice.

Steven M. Sipple and Brian Christopherson

Reach Steven M. Sipple at 402-473-7440 or


Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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