Nebraska vs. UCLA - 9/8/2012

Nebraska defensive end Joseph Carter (7) gets his arms around UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin (23) in the second quarter at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012.

FRANCIS GARDLER/Lincoln Journal Star

Rick Kaczenski was a popular interview subject after Monday's practice.

Good reason for that. Kaczenski's defensive line is looking for the answers, and in an attempt to find them, coaches seem prepared to expand the roles of three freshmen.

You probably know the names by now: Moss, Curry, Williams.

Now how much those roles are expanded, we shall see. In the case of Williams, his role already was quite significant against UCLA. The redshirt freshman had 42 snaps after not playing at all the week before.

Williams finished with just one tackle, but Kaczenski said there were some encouraging things from young player to be found on the game tape.

"He's got some quickness," Kaczenski said. "He can stay small in tight places. He's a good movement guy. He can get out of bad positions. He's good at anticipating ... (and) he made plays. He's got his gap responsibility and then when it's time to go make a play, he went and he pulled the trigger."

Bo Pelini said the 6-foot-2, 265-pound Williams got off blocks well and was active in run defense. That success didn't translate as much to the pass rush, Pelini said, "but that happens a lot to a young guy."

Bottom line: "We're going to need more guys, and we're going to need more guys playing better, and I got to start coaching," Kaczenski said.

Why didn't Williams play in the opener?

"Just the situations," Kaczenski said. "We wanted to get Baker (Steinkuhler) some snaps at the left tackle. We wanted to see Thad (Randle) swing both sides ... And to be honest with you, just getting a feel for the game. Defensively we were still getting a feel for them late into the game so there wasn't a lot of time left to throw Kevin in there."

* Kaczenski said Randle "has been toughing it out" as he comes back from a knee injury that kept him out of the spring.

"I know you look at the statistics and all those things, but he made some plays out there," Kaczenski said. "Obviously, he's still coming off that (injury), still battling that, he's hobbling a little bit, but he's fighting through all those things."

Randle and Chase Rome both were in the low 30s with their snap totals against UCLA.

* Steinkuhler was in the low 50s with his snap totals. "So we got to get a little more rotation going," Kaczenski said. "That's where (Aaron) Curry's going to come in. We just have to get him out there and see what happens."

Curry played nine snaps on Saturday. He did not register a tackle.

But Kaczenski feels those young guys have some gifts that haven't yet translated to the stat sheet. It' just a matter of bringing them out, he thinks.

"Those guys have done some good things, things that are going to help us down the line. Probably some things you haven't noticed," he said. "When you give up that many yards on the ground it's hard to notice anything good. But when you break down tape, you're saying, 'Oh, I could see flashes. This guy is going to help us down the line and he's going to continue to get better.' And you see them getting better from the last two weeks. If there's a positive that came out of this game up front, that's probably the one thing."


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