Huskers at Belmont Community Center

Four-year-old Owen Clark gets a boost toward the hoop from Nebraska football player Randy Gregory Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013, at Belmont Community Center. Members of the Nebraska football team visited the summer child care program at Belmont to play with the kids and sign autographs.

Randy Gregory showed up to Lincoln only last week, cleared to play just in time for fall camp.

And the JUCO transfer has played in just one football game in the past year-and-a-half after suffering a broken fibula in the second week of his season at Arizona Western Community College last year.

But even with the rust, the sophomore certainly arrived to Nebraska ready to pass the eye test.

"Obviously we're practicing out there in shorts," Husker coach Bo Pelini said Tuesday. "He's obviously swimming in it mentally but he can play. I think he showed up in shape. He hasn't struggled at all as far as conditioning is concerned."

Pelini said the 6-foot-6 defensive end reported at 255 pounds. Arriving to a defensive line looking for immediate contributions from the newcomers, the opportunity is there for a player who could be used in a variety of different ways.

"His attitude's been great," Pelini said. "That's all you can ask."

* COMPETITION ABOUNDS: Nebraska's head coach was upbeat about his team's efforts after the first two days of fall camp.

"There's great competition out there," Pelini said. "Guys are getting after it and guys know that there are people after their jobs, which keeps them on edge, and that's how you get better."

Pelini said the young players on defense have shown good enthusiasm, and for the most part, good execution in the first two days of no-pads practices.

While not naming names, he said some of the redshirt freshmen on the defensive line, in particular, have impressed him with their progress.

"Like I just told them before we broke, I don't care how young you are, when you walk on this field, we expect you to execute," Pelini said.

"I think we have a group of guys on this football team that are hungry, and I think they're out to prove something. But let's face the facts, it's easy when you're only two practices in. It's going to be how this team responds as this camp goes on because there's a lot of hard work ahead of us."

* HIGH EXPECTATIONS: Pelini isn't buying into any narrative that it might take a while this season before this defense is playing at a high level he expects.

"They're going to be playing good football when they kick it off. I have every confidence. I like what I've seen from our defense so far. I like what we're doing. You guys are the ones that are concerned about the defense, not me. We'll be just fine."

* INJURY REPORT: Senior tight end Jake Long is banged up and will probably miss about two weeks, Pelini said.

While not ideal, it allows coaches to get even more of a look at the young tight ends.

"We have to figure out which of those young tight ends is going to step up," Pelini said.

Sophomore quarterback Tommy Armstrong also is momentarily slowed. He had his knee cleaned out last week. It was the same knee that underwent surgery last fall.

"He's been out there practicing. Not full go yet, but that will happen anytime now," Pelini said. "It's just a clean-up. It wasn't a recurrence. It wasn't an injury. It's just something you have to do when you have that type of surgery."

Still missing: True freshmen Dimarya Mixon (DE) and Marcus Newby (LB) are not practicing yet, still working through some eligibility issues.

"I don't know what the time frame is on that," Pelini said.

True freshmen defensive tackle Maliek Collins was also not at Tuesday's practice due to some personal reasons. He is expected to be back on the field Wednesday.

* SECONDARY SHINING: While Nebraska has its share of questions to answer on the defensive line and at linebacker spots, Pelini feels real good about his defensive backs.

"Our secondary right now is playing very, very well, which gives us a lot of options as far as guys that can play multiple spots," he said.

"Probably more so than any time I've ever been here, where we feel like we have a lot of guys that can play and a lot of guys that can help this team in a lot of different areas. And when you play as many spread out teams as we're going to in the first seven or eight games, that's a good problem to have."

* KICKING IT AROUND: It's only two days in, but Pelini doesn't know that he's seen Mauro Bondi or Pat Smith miss a kick yet as both battle for the place-kicking job.

Smith is the senior transfer who just arrived on campus. Bondi is a sophomore who was part of the 2011 recruiting class.

"They've been pretty even so far ..." Pelini said. "It's been pretty consistent. We've got a long way to go. We'll chart every kick. It'll probably be a combination a little bit of how we go about it. We'll just see how it all plays out. It's a good problem to have. We have two good kickers from what I've seen these first couple of days."

Pelini is also very high on redshirt freshman Sam Foltz. The Grand Island native is the favorite for the punter job.

"I think Foltz has the chance to be a big-time punter. His leg strength and the hang time he gets on punts, is something. We've had good punters. But let's face it, we've had a little more kickers who have punted. And Foltz gives us something maybe we haven't had in the past."

* FIXED UP: Assistant coach Ron Brown, in his 23rd season on the Husker staff, is sporting a bulky brace on his right knee, the result of total-replacement surgery exactly seven weeks ago.

He said the knee has bothered him for years, noting it was the fifth surgery. It did the trick.

The knee now feels great, Brown said.

Brown isn't the only coach recovering from surgery. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck is on the field despite undergoing jaw surgery to correct sleep apnea during the offseason.

Although Beck's voice may not quite carry as well just yet, Pelini said the coach "hasn't missed a beat."

"He's fine," Pelini said. "He spends most of his practice on the headset anyway. He's doing just fine, feeling pretty good. ... We could play today and he wouldn't miss a beat."

Reach Brian Christopherson at bchristopherson@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. Follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.



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