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HUSKER FOOTBALL

With renewed 'desire to get better,' Betts hopes to step forward in Husker receiver rotation

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Zavier Betts

Zavier Betts (right) talks with Nebraska quality control coach Steve DeMeo during the Friday Night Lights camp on June 4 at Memorial Stadium.

Zavier Betts paused, looking for the right words.

What changed in the freshman wide receiver's approach, a reporter asked him Wednesday, from spring ball to this fall?

Suddenly the answer flashed into his mind, like he hopes to flash open against opposing defenses this season.

"I’d say my desire to get better has grown a lot more since the spring," Betts said. "In the spring it was there, but it wasn’t as big and as deep as it should have been. And then over the summer I kind of found ways to improve that.

"So from then to now, I want to get better more."

Betts, after a record-setting career at Bellevue West, and a debut season in Lincoln that saw him flash his talent from time to time, didn't get the reps he wanted during spring ball.

It was his own fault, he said, for not building on his 12-catch, 131-yard debut season that included a 45-yard catch-and-run for a score against Penn State.

"I didn’t do as well in the spring as I should have," Betts said. "So that was on me."

It's easier to get better, though, when your teammates are pushing the right buttons. Multiple times in recent weeks, some of Nebraska's most experienced players have mentioned Betts by name when talking about teammates poised for a breakout season.

That includes the guy who will be throwing Betts the ball.

"We’ve had a decent amount of personal conversations about what he means to this team, and what he can do for the unit and the team as a whole," NU quarterback Adrian Martinez said. "I think he’s a difference-maker. And not only him, there are other guys in that room as well.

Parker Gabriel and Steven M. Sipple talk Husker football in the latest Two-Minute Drill from Memorial Stadium.

"But I think letting guys know how much they mean to not only me as a quarterback but to this group — and that it’s bigger than just the individual — goes a long way."

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Betts has taken those words to heart as he tries to take a step forward in a Nebraska receiver rotation that many expect to be improved come this fall.

"Hearing it from my teammates and inside the program, that’s probably the best way for me to hear it because I like the positive feedback," Betts said. "And knowing that I’m doing better and they see that, and they’re acknowledging it, makes me feel good. So I want to play better and play harder for them."

Those are the opinions that matter, Betts said, not those that come from outside the program's walls about whether he can replicate what he was able to do up the road at Bellevue West.

Betts doesn't pay attention to much of the talk outside Memorial Stadium, save for one influential voice that helped set him on the right path this summer.

Parker Gabriel and Steven M. Sipple break down the four most notable takeaways after hearing from the Nebraska football team.

"I had a lot of conversations with my dad (over the summer). My dad’s kind of the one who points out some of the smaller details in my routes or in my releases that some of the coaches may not pick up on," Betts said. "So having conversations with him kind of gives me an outsider’s look, so that I can see what I can fix and what I can get better on."

Betts took the advice from his father, and the words of his teammates, and spent the summer running routes alone on a field near his house. He pays close attention to the other guys in his position group for things he can use himself.

Now, it's a matter of making it pay off.

"This year I know pretty much all of my stuff, compared to last year when I didn’t know anything and I had to ask questions about every play," Betts said. "So the fact that I know the majority of my stuff and can run it without asking questions makes me feel a lot better, and lets me run my routes a lot faster."

Contact the writer at cbasnett@journalstar.com or 402-473-7436. On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.

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Assistant sports editor/high schools

A Ravenna native, Chris Basnett joined the Journal Star in 2016 and has more than 20 years of experience covering prep, college, and professional sports.

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