The Husker offense and defense seem to have developed a nice little rivalry through the first six spring practices.
And each side has its leaders.
While Tommy Armstrong has been the quarterback seeing the lion’s share of snaps with the top-unit offense, the defense seems to have its own quarterback in corner Josh Mitchell, who chatters continually during practices.
“Honestly, J-Mitch and all those guys, they’re trying to get in my head this year,” Armstrong said. “But that’s a good thing. They’re good. They have a bunch of returners at linebacker. Randy Gregory, J-Mitch and all those guys, they’re really good. They go out and they holler and they hoot and all this stuff when we go and scrimmage.”
A confident defense presents the type of challenge that Armstrong thinks can only be beneficial for everyone on his side of the ball.
“They make us better,” the quarterback said. “They make our offensive line better by coming out and doing what they do. Coach Bo has them in good positions. They’re ready to go.”
* On the climb: Taariq Allen continues to make his case at the wide receiver position.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound junior probably had the catch of the day Monday when he made a leaping grab while hugging the sideline.
“Everything I do is about being aggressive, and just stay in my playbook," Allen said. "Just know everything backwards and forwards."
Even without Quincy Enunwa in the room this year, Allen expects this bunch of Husker receivers to have a lot of success in 2014.
“I feel like we’re a young and talented group,” he said. “Q did bring that spark to us, but I don’t think it’s going to be gone.”
* Quick Collins: Sophomore defensive tackle Maliek Collins showed his versatility during Monday’s practice, moving outside and seeing some snaps at end.
Collins exhibited great quickness for a man weighing 300 pounds, at one point juking the tackle to the outside and then sliding inside untouched for a clear path to the quarterback.
* Joining the party: A new face was among those trying his hand at returning punts on Monday, with Charles Jackson fielding a few. Jamal Turner, Jordan Westerkamp, Brandon Reilly and Jordan Nelson were among others working at the position.
Spring is the time for such experimentation.
* Alexander again: Sophomore safety LeRoy Alexander continues to stand out.
He made a nice diving pick on one play, though an assist goes to linebacker Zaire Anderson, who tipped the ball in the air.
* Nebrasketball fever: Ameer Abdullah was back on the field Monday after missing Saturday’s practice due to sinus congestion.
He's feeling better now. Granted, he has a case of hoops fever like many others in this state.
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Abdullah says he stopped growing in the 10th grade, which spelled doom for his dream of playing college basketball.
But he still loves the game. If only he were taller than 5-foot-9. …
Even so, "I tell Coach (Tim) Miles all the time, if he needs a defender, I'm going to use all five of my fouls," Abdullah said Monday after Nebraska's football practice. "I can get out there and play 90 feet, man, for real."
Kind of like 5-9 Benny Parker, NU's defensive wizard?
"I got a little more bounce than Benny," Abdullah said. "I can dunk. I more of a Nate-Rob (Robinson) kind of guy."
Abdullah said he has friends on the team, mentioning forwards David Rivers and Walter Pitchford. Ameer was asked if he had any advice for the 6-foot-10 Pitchford.
"I tell him all the time, 'You're too tall, 6-10, at least get in the post,'" Ameer said with a smile. "Obviously, not taking my advice is working for him."
Abdullah said he'll be planted on his couch at 11:30 a.m. Friday, watching Nebraska play Baylor in the NCAA Tournament.
"Those guys are living out my dream," he said.
* Respect: Abdullah also has plenty of respect for another in-state star, Creighton’s All-American Doug McDermott.
"McBuckets is the truth, man,” Abdullah said. “He's a really good player."
* Another level: Kenny Bell suggested Monday that Abdullah has taken his game — his football game, that is — to another level.
Abdullah, an All-Big Ten choice last season, said he hopes that's the case.
“I feel like everyone is trying to take their game to the next level," he said. "Me, personally, I really want to … I want to be a better player, a smarter player, play in big moments — be the guy you can count on.
"I'm really working extra time, whether it's Saturday after practice or Sunday coming up working on my footwork."
Abdullah has looked as quick as ever this spring. On Monday, he put a move on a linebacker that left him grasping for air, producing a collection of “ooohs” from his offensive teammates.
Abdullah said he wants to "maximize my potential while I'm here because once it's gone, it's gone. You can't go back in time. This time right now really matters.”
* This and That: Randy Gregory, Michael Rose and Terrell Newby were not present at Monday’s practice. Such absences are not uncommon during the spring. Newby also missed Saturday’s practice with an illness. Bo Pelini will next talk with media after Wednesday’s workout. …With Gregory not around, junior Jack Gangwish and Joe Keels got a chance to take some snaps with the top unit. … After limping off the field during Saturday’s scrimmage, offensive guard Zach Hannon watched Monday’s practice with a boot on his foot. … Offensive lineman commit Christian Gaylord was on hand to take in Monday’s practice. … Transfer Alex Lewis continues to be the man at left tackle, with Zach Sterup on the right side. Early indications are that both will be tough to top.
— Brian Christopherson and Steven M. Sipple