Nebraska freshman inside linebacker Nick Henrich had his first collegiate spring ball cut short by an injury and now he's facing a rather lengthy recovery.
The former Omaha Burke standout and four-star recruit suffered a shoulder injury, the Journal Star learned, and was slated for surgery Wednesday.
“He should be back about the time the season starts, so it depends on his recovery when we’ll be able to get him up and going again,” NU coach Scott Frost said Wednesday.
Surgery went great !! Appreciate all the prayers 🙏be back soon .💯— Nick Henrich (@nickhenrich_42) April 11, 2019
Nicks surgery went well!! Some of his awesome teammates stopped by to visit ❤️. Can’t throw the bones yet but ready to attack rehab!! GBR!☠️🏈 pic.twitter.com/NL8NEp7OHD— Mike Henrich (@MikeHenrich719) April 11, 2019
Camp begins near the beginning of August and the season opener is Aug. 31, which is about 4½ months away.
Inside linebacker coach Barrett Ruud didn’t have much depth to begin with and now it will be cut more, at least for the offseason. Junior Will Honas is about six months off ACL surgery and it’s unclear if he’s been cleared for full contact work. That leaves senior Mohamed Barry and junior Collin Miller as the only scholarship players who are known to be fully available for the spring game.
Walk-ons such as Joey Johnson, Jake Archer and Chris Cassidy could be in for big workloads Saturday.
Coincidentally, Henrich joins former Burke teammate and NU freshman tight end Chris Hickman on the shelf with a shoulder injury. Hickman has been out for most of the spring as he recovers from a winter surgical procedure.
Long list: NU secondary coach Travis Fisher was asked if there was anybody in his group who he's excited for fans to see Saturday.
He reeled off quite a long list: safeties Deontai Williams, Eric Lee, Marquel Dismuke and Tony Butler; and cornerbacks Lamar Jackson, Dicaprio Bootle and Cam Taylor.
Williams and Jackson lead the way as far as interceptions in spring camp, the coach said.
"I've got a handful of guys who've come a long way from last year to this year," Fisher said. "They've been competing and working their butts off. Kind of went to the next level. Still got a ways to go but went to the next level.
"But, hey, it's one thing to go to the next level in practice. Let's see you have that same energy in front of 90,000 or 100,000 spectators."
Fisher, though, emphasized how far the group has come as a whole.
"It's the mentality in the film room, the mentality off the field, mentality in the class room, and just being great in the community," he said. "It's giving back their time in the community. It's just doing a great job of being great student-athletes, and I appreciate it."
Lee's move clicks: Lee, a senior from Milton, Massachusetts, moved from corner to safety this spring, and the switch has clicked.
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"He's made a big impact," said Fisher, noting that Lee's tackling ability shows up at safety.
"I took Lamar out of the Wisconsin game — I didn't like the way he was tackling," Fisher said. "I put Eric Lee at that position and he made some great tackles and was physical on the tackles."
Fisher felt the safety positions lacked depth entering the spring, which helps explain Lee's move. What's more, it meant Taylor could get more reps at corner.
Recruiting pitch: Fisher basically went through what he would tell a recruit who's on hand this weekend for the sold-out Spring Game.
"If I was a kid looking for a school and I wanted to put myself in a great football atmosphere, around the best fans in the country, great coaching staff, great environment, city is nice — family-oriented. The town is not too huge that you get lost, but it's not too small that you get bored. Hey, the weather is what it is. But also, like right now, you can put some shorts on," he said.
"This would be an easy pick, especially when you go out and the spring game — the spring game — is sold out."
Friends in town: Nebraska defensive line coach Tony Tuioti, who held the same position at Cal, had some friends in town Wednesday from the Bears' staff.
The group included offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin, offensive line coach Steve Greatwood and wide receivers coach Burl Toler.
"They're here to meet with the offensive coaches," Tuioti said. "Coach Greatwood had been with Frost at Oregon for a long time. During the offseason, everybody tries to get some professional development, so they're here trying to pick up some nuggets and see what we do.
"This is a good time for us to share, especially on the offensive side."
Thomas on rise: Tuioti mentioned a handful of defensive linemen who are playing at a high level, led by Khalil Davis, Carlos Davis and Darrion Daniels.
"I think there are about six guys who we have up front that I'm really, really impressed with," said Tuioti, noting that sophomore Deontre Thomas came on strong in the late stages of camp to work his way into the top tier.
Defense bounces back: A week after getting handled by their offensive counterparts, Nebraska’s defensive players responded well, defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said.
“They came out today and it was a much different attitude,” he said. “I thought we came out and were firing on all cylinders. Guys were excited. Good emotion, good communication, lot of carryover as I looked around at individuals, a lot of carryover from drills to team.”
That last snippet alone is a big change from last year, Chinander said. Maybe not a 180-degree turn from where the team was when the coaching staff first arrived, but a good start.
“That’s what wasn’t happening last year. They were just trying to get lined up and execute,” Chinander said. "There’s a lot of carryover happening right now, so I was happy.”
Stille a quiet leader: Darrion Daniels has quickly emerged as a vocal leader in the defensive line room. The rest of the group maybe isn’t quite as loud, but Tuioti pointed out Wednesday that leadership can come in many forms.
“Ben Stille is one of those quiet leaders that’s been great for us,” Tuioti said. “He’s consistent. He’s like the north star. He’s always there, consistent, and I don’t have to worry about him. It’s great to have those kind of guys. Is he a vocal guy? Nope. But when he speaks, everybody’s going to listen.”
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