Mark Banker wasn't sure Joshua Kalu was even going to play Saturday.
"Kalu was sick. He was very, very sick tonight. ... But he's a warrior," the Husker defensive coordinator explained after Nebraska's 31-14 win against Rutgers. "He went out there and competed."
Banker joked that maybe there was an advantage to the sophomore cornerback being sick. "Because he was more serious the whole time, so he had to really focus," the coach said with a smile. "No, I'm telling you. That kid, he can do anything he wants to do. He's a dynamic individual both as a person and a player."
Whether sick or feeling like a million smackeroos, games like Saturday's can only help young players such as Kalu and fellow sophomore corner Chris Jones grow in confidence.
No, Rutgers standout wide receiver Leonte Carroo probably wasn't 100 percent as he tried to come back from an ankle injury. But he was on the field. And the receiver averaging 105 yards a game came up with just four catches for 62 yards.
When Rutgers tried to go deep to Carroo at one point in the first quarter, Jones had him all the way, notching the first pick of his college career.
"With Chris, it is just a matter of more reps, more confidence," Banker said. "And as we approach the offseason, which we still got a ways to go yet, (it's about) getting him in the weight room and getting him strong, because he is a helluva athlete. He's got to be feeling better about himself."
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So do several other young Huskers. If this 5-6 campaign, which has taken a turn to the positive in recent weeks, is ultimately viewed as a building season, let's throw out names of some of the underclassmen, sophomores and younger, who Husker fans can feel good about as they hope for a big finish to 2015 with a better 2016 to come.
For the sake of brevity, we'll dedicate most of this space to those young players who were on the field this year. But certainly redshirts Carlos Davis, Alex Davis and Khalil Davis on the D-line, and Eric Lee and Avery Anderson in the secondary, will be among those of great intrigue when the spring rolls around.
Considering NU's need for guys that can make noise at rush end, take note of what Banker said about Alex Davis in September: "He's not too far from getting out on the field right now and actually playing for us."
Davis, a basketball standout in high school, has been building size while learning the game. Keep him in mind.
Slideshow: The Husker Young Guns
Some of the young Huskers to be thrown into the fire have made leaps and bounds this year. Click through the slideshow o see which players play this year brings cause for excitement.
A true freshman who has started two games this year at safety. Perhaps you caught Banker's comments about how Williams was "the shining light"…
Winning a starting job at right tackle over a senior should tell you plenty about the redshirt freshman. On an O-line that will lose three sta…
Marcus Newby and Chris Weber, and Dedrick Young and Tyrin Ferguson: Two sophomores and two true freshmen.
With Imani Cross moving on, it opens up more reps in 2016. Ozigbo looks like he's a do-it-all guy, too.
Freedom has been quieter at D-end since nonconference play, and having minor surgery on his knee.