We’re writing about Luke McNitt the fullback, even if the former quarterback and tight end hasn’t set down his helmet and head-butted a teammate.
That’s a frightening ritual former fullback Andy Janovich and current fullback Harrison Jordan often practiced in the Nebraska football locker room.
“Uh, I haven’t gotten into that yet,” McNitt said. “I haven’t been initiated into that.”
No worry, because McNitt, a junior walk-on from Kearney, is proving himself as a fullback in many other ways.
In fact, he’s made such a splash during spring practices that position coach Reggie Davis said Thursday the 6-foot-2, 240-pound McNitt currently has the upper hand in a three-man race to replace Janovich.
“Luke McNitt is doing really well,” Davis said, “and then Graham (Nabity) and Harrison are following him up, right now.”
Those last two words are important, because, well, it’s April, and a team in opposing uniforms won’t grace Memorial Stadium until September.
“We’re in a battle right now, but we’ve got the rest of the spring to battle it out, so we’ll see what happens,” said Jordan, a 5-10, 230-pound junior from Omaha. “They want someone who can do it all, so we've got to make sure we can do it all.”
As the staff continues to discuss which player has the best blend of physicality, versatility and athleticism that Janovich possessed in reinvigorating the fullback position, McNitt’s name keeps coming to the forefront.
“Luke gives us a lot of the same things,” Davis said. “Luke hasn’t carried the ball in the backfield like Andy has, so we’ll have to see about that. For the most part, he’s been giving us pretty much what Andy was able to give us.”
McNitt played in five games last season as a tight end, after he transferred from Nebraska-Kearney, where he played quarterback.
“It’s definitely been a lot of change, but I welcomed it,” McNitt said. “I figured coming out of high school, a lot of schools didn’t know if I’d be able to make that transition. They didn’t know if I could go from playing quarterback to putting my hand in the dirt. I knew I could do it. It was just a matter of learning it, getting some reps at it.”
McNitt said his experience as a tight end helps him as a fullback in route running and pass catching, and that his time at quarterback helps him understand what defenses are doing overall.
“I still find myself stepping up to the line, looking at the safeties, watching for rotation, looking for blitzes,” McNitt said. “I mean, I don’t have to do half the reads quarterbacks have to do, but I can tell what the D-line is going to do or what the safeties or linebackers are doing.”
The tight end, or "H-back" in Nebraska’s offense, is interchangeable with fullback. The biggest difference is the collisions at fullback are more violent than those squarely at the line of scrimmage.
That certainly suits Jordan.
“I’ll smack anyone. I’ll hit anyone,” Jordan said. “Yeah, I’m short. I might be a little unathletic compared to some of the other athletes, but I’m going to smack ‘em and they’re going to feel me.”
No, McNitt might not froth at the mouth like Jordan or Janovich at the anticipation of a colliding with a linebacker.
That doesn’t mean he can’t, or won’t, do it.
“I don’t know if it lights his fire like it lights those two’s fire,” Davis said of McNitt. “But he absolutely is willing to do it and he does a great job at it.”
Offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said McNitt was a logical pick to play fullback and that he’s made the transition nicely.
“He’s a smart, smart player. He’s had good work at the tight end position blocking, and I think that’s helped him kind of transition to that fullback spot,” Langsdorf said. “He is really an athletic receiver out of the backfield. He’s going to be a guy that we can run some lead plays, cut the edge and then bluff and get into the flat and be a threat throwing him the ball.”