Nebraska Begins Football

Eric Lee is among three players competing for a starting spot at cornerback.

Donté Williams calls Eric Lee a smooth customer.

In fact, Williams will tell you that the Nebraska third-year sophomore is so smooth, he appears to be gliding at a slower pace.

"Everything he does is smooth," Williams said. "You almost take him for granted because you never think he's running fast, but because he's so smooth, he is running fast."

It's not the first time Lee has heard that.

"All my life people have always told me that it doesn't look I'm trying that hard," Lee said following the completion of fall camp practice No. 3 Tuesday.

"I like to think I'm just real smooth with it."

(There's that word again.)

"I definitely think I have that top gear — I don't say a lot of people haven't seen — but a lot people wouldn't think that I have."

Lee is garnering more attention following a summer injury to Chris Jones. The senior's injury (meniscus tear) means others will need to step up, and quickly.

On Tuesday, Lee was answering questions about his readiness. Of course, he handled it like a smooth customer.

"This is why I came here so I can try to fill a position to try to benefit my team," the former Colorado prep standout said. "Obviously, you don't want to see anyone go down, especially your teammates, so it kind of sucks that it was Chris, or just anyone.

"It's just an opportunity for me to step up and try to benefit the team."

Lee said his mentality didn't change after Jones' injury in July. He had told himself in January that he was going to play this season after appearing in eight games, primarily on special teams, as a redshirt freshman.

A strong spring season followed for Lee, who said the game started to slow down for him.

"I had the same feeling when I was starting on varsity (in high school)," said Lee, a prized recruit in the 2015 class. "You need that first hit, you need that first tackle just to get your feet wet. So I feel like last year was definitely an opportunity for me to get my feet wet, and now I'm just ready to come (in) and benefit the team this year."

Nebraska coach Mike Riley said Sunday that the Huskers have three corners capable of stepping up in key roles — Lee, sophomore Lamar Jackson and redshirt freshman Dicaprio Bootle.

In Williams' eyes, there is no pecking order at the moment.

"I wouldn't just say that those two (Lee and Bootle) are battling to start, (and) Lamar already is crowned the king on the other side," the first-year NU assistant said. "We have basically a three-for-two situation where we have three starters, so it's a fortunate situation that we're in."

In Lee, Williams sees a sophomore with a lot of maturity.

"He doesn't act like a guy that's 20 years old," Williams said. "Eric Lee conducts himself as if he's a 30-year-old grown man."

That said, Lee is still learning a lot. In fact, he has picked up an additional coach during fall camp in Jones, who remains involved in meetings and is seen at practices.

"If he see's something, he's obviously going to correct me because he wants to see me do better, too," Lee said.

Lee said he looked over to Jones the other day during practice and got a thumbs-up.

The goal now, Lee says, is to stay consistent, "because now someone else is trying to take my spot. So you got work to every day like someone's coming out here."

Reach the writer at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsGrell.


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