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Red-White Spring Game, 4.11.15 (copy)

Nebraska defensive back Trai Mosley (16) runs as wide receiver Lane Hovey (13) moves in for the tackle after Mosley intercepted a pass at the Red-White Spring Game last Saturday. Mosley is part of a deep Husker secondary.

The man once wore the star on his shirt, the defensive coordinator for the most recognizable franchise in football, the Dallas Cowboys. Brian Stewart has seen some things in this game.

Yet as he walked out of the tunnel at Memorial Stadium last Saturday for a practice, he looked up and witnessed something new. Almost 77,000 people to watch football that didn't count five months before the season.

It produced a fairly priceless reaction from the first-year Husker secondary coach: "Man, what?"

An exclamation of positivity in that context, Stewart can also be pleased he wasn't uttering "man, what?" a lot when watching his secondary practice this spring.

"Outside of a few little snafus, I feel pretty good," Stewart said after the Red-White Spring Game. "I thought we played fast for being the first time in this defense. You want to say that 15 practices seem like a long time, but it's only 15 practices, so I'm pretty excited at where we are now.

"If we could just not take any steps back and just use where we stopped here, and pick up during training camp, that will really say something."

Stewart is not short of options to sort through in the months ahead when it comes to deciphering starters and top backups.

Even with veteran cornerbacks Daniel Davie and Charles Jackson missing the spring with injuries (both are expected back for fall camp), heavy competition churned along, with the likes of Jonathan Rose, Joshua Kalu, Chris Jones, Trai Mosley and freshmen Eric Lee and Avery Anderson all trying to make their case.

And, at safety: Nate Gerry, Byerson Cockrell, LeRoy Alexander, Kieron Williams and Aaron Williams, the latter a true freshman who may have had as good a camp as any of the early enrollees.

Speaking highly in midspring of the player from Atlanta, defensive coordinator Mark Banker said: "I don't know exactly what he did in preparation, but it's obvious he's a good player from the standpoint that he has what we refer to as F.B.I. — football instincts."

Stewart has been just as impressed with the 5-foot-11, 185-pounder's speedy transition to this level.

"He's one of those guys that should be getting ready for his prom right now. I'm most excited about his learning," Stewart said. "Everything's important to him, whether it's Coach Banker talking to him or myself. And he takes what you say from the meeting room onto the field immediately. I think he's going to be one to watch. I don't know how it's all going to shake out. We still have training camp ahead of us, but I thought he had a great spring."

Among second-year cornerbacks, Stewart has liked the progress of Jones and Kalu, who both have the length he values in his cornerbacks.

But the coach also leaves spring feeling good about their roommate, the redshirt freshman Mosley, who showed this spring the ball-hawking traits he showed off in high school. He picked off three passes in a single practice earlier this spring, and intercepted another ball floated by AJ Bush in the Spring Game.

"I see a guy who's small in stature but big in play," Stewart said. "That's probably the best compliment I can give him. He makes plays on the ball. Tackles. I don't think anybody's told him he's 5-9, 185."

The product of Pflugerville, Texas, was regarded as one of the more important finds for NU on Signing Day 2014. When Mosley came to test in front of Husker coaches during the recruiting process, he ran a blistering 40-yard dash time and posted a vertical leap of 42 inches.

In the midst of Mosley's recruitment, Hendrickson High School coach Chip Killian told the Journal Star: “You put him on an island, hey, he’s going to take those guys out of the game."

But a lot of guys are vying to be on that island for NU this year. Where Mosley and the other defensive backs land on a crowded depth chart is still challenging to project.

But Stewart leaves spring practice feeling in a good spot — both in the secondary's potential and being in a place where football means enough to nearly fill a stadium in April.

"It's something I've never been around. It's one of those things. Not only do you have a smile, you're kind of like, 'This is football.' This is what you coach for. You walk out and look around. People love football here like you love football," Stewart said.

"As a coach, you wake up, you eat, drink football. You can't go to sleep because you're thinking of a defense. Now you look out here at all those people and think it was well worth it."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7439 or bchristopherson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.

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