Will Honas feels stronger and faster than he did during the spring.

“I definitely feel more confident," he said earlier this week.

That's precisely what Nebraska inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud wants to hear from Honas in these early stages of preseason camp. As the Huskers prepare for their Sept. 1 opener against Akron, Ruud emphasizes the need for depth in his position group. Senior Dedrick Young and junior Mohamed Barry have an inside track to starting positions, while Honas, a highly rated transfer from Butler (Kansas) Community College, is among a handful of players trying to solidify roles.

Ruud was asked if he thinks Honas will be ready to play a key role come Sept. 1?

“He’s going to have to be ready," the coach said. “When you’re going to play at that level, it’s always a question mark. All you can do is trust your preparation.”

The 6-foot-1, 235-pound Honas, ranked last season as the nation's top junior-college inside linebacker by 247Sports, said he's picked up confidence since spring practice ended in April.

“I’m a lot more comfortable with the atmosphere, with my teammates," he said. "Getting to know them a little better helps. Having some friends around and guys to help get through the days is good.”

He spent ample time this summer with Young, Barry, junior walk-on Jacob Weinmaster and sophomore Avery Roberts. Those are the key members of Ruud's crew.

A native of Wichita, Kansas, Honas seeks to contribute to the team any way possible, he said.

"Going from a 4-3 (defense at Butler), it’s a little bit different with run schemes and fun fits," he said of Nebraska's 3-4 system. "It helps getting some experience and getting some reps, where I can get my fits better. I’m kind of used to it now versus in the spring when it was a little bit different.”

Ruud wants Honas to believe in his techniques.

"I think he at times was a little bit hesitant (in the spring)," Ruud said. "I think the light went on midway through spring and he definitely made some big jumps, and I think he'll continue to do that. Whenever you're learning a defense, sometimes it takes a little time to click. It's about learning the technique and understanding what we're asking him to do."

Meanwhile, Roberts (6-1, 230) tries to make up ground after a rocky spring. Ruud challenged him to get into better shape.

“I think he always had a decent understanding of the defense, but I think physically he’s improved compared to where he was in the spring," Ruud said. "I don’t think he was ready to play in the spring. Now, with the offseason workout program, I think he really did take that (challenge) to heart."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.