Nebraska vs. Indiana, 10/15

Nebraska's Joshua Kalu (10) does a little dance after making a third-down stop during the second quarter against Indiana last season.

Let's do this.

1. Jordan Westerkamp is a positive thinker, an upbeat person in general -- and he remains upbeat about his chances to eventually play in the NFL.

"Right now, I'm training my butt off," he said last week from his home in suburban Chicago.

Westerkamp, who ranks second all-time at Nebraska in career receptions (167), wasn't selected in the NFL Draft in late April. But he since has had tryouts with Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Miami.

What's more, "I went and did a little workout with the Kansas City Chiefs about a week ago and did extremely well," he said. "Me, the G.M. and my agent have been in talks. That's looking pretty bright for me.

"We'll just see what happens when (NFL team) camps roll around here in the next couple weeks. You know how camp is -- people go down (with injuries) left and right. I mean, I know I'll end up somewhere. It's just a matter of time and opportunity.

"The NFL is so crazy," he added. "I could get a call tomorrow and sign with some team. Right now, I'm just getting in the best shape of my life and making sure I'm ready to go for any teams that call me."

The 6-foot, 200-pound Westerkamp is a popular former Husker in large part because of the difficult catches and clutch plays he made over the course of his career. But his draft chances took a hit during bowl practice in December when he suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee.

"With no knee injury, and with a strong finish to the season, there's no doubt in my mind I would've been drafted," he said.

Thing is, Westerkamp had not missed a game in his college career until the 2016 season, when a back injury caused him to sit out the Indiana and Purdue games in October. He still led the Huskers in receptions (38), receiving yards (526) and touchdown receptions (five).

Of course, he still hears questions about his size and speed. He's long heard those questions.

He has no problem staying motivated.

And, yes, he feels healthy.

"I've been able to work out much harder than right after the draft," he said. "It's been good."

Fingers crossed for the young man.

2. So, the million-dollar question: What should Nebraska do with Joshua Kalu?

With Husker standout senior cornerback Chris Jones sidelined by a knee injury -- perhaps for the entire 2017 season -- it's possible first-year defensive coordinator Bob Diaco will decide to move Kalu back to corner, where he was a starter the previous two seasons.

But Kalu practiced at safety this past spring, and looked excellent. The 6-1, 195-pound senior is a good tackler and gives the Huskers a needed dose of speed at the position. It might make sense to keep him at safety alongside junior Aaron Williams, who drew raves from coaches for how quickly he picked up Diaco's defense.

I like the idea of Kalu and Williams giving Nebraska a strong combination at safety. They're savvy veterans who can help guide the young corners -- most notably sophomores Eric Lee and Lamar Jackson -- and cover for their mistakes, if necessary.

Then again, Nebraska has more depth at safety. Senior Kieron Williams started nine games last season, and junior Antonio Reed has seen extensive playing time at the position. Sophomore JoJo Domann tore his ACL in the spring, but may return by midseason.

Bottom line, Diaco faces a key decision -- as well as a significant challenge -- because Jones is arguably the team's top defender.

3. I wrote it during the spring and it's worth repeating: Jones has been a stabilizing presence for Nebraska's defense during a period of significant change.

He's serious about his craft -- quiet and meticulous on the field.

Indeed, something he said at the end of spring practice sticks with me.

"My approach to every day is just to come out to work," said the 6-foot, 195-pound native of Jacksonville, Florida. "I may have had a bad day all day — may have heard some bad news or something like that. But when it's time to go out there on the field, nothing else matters. It's strictly about football. It's about my teammates. It's about us as a whole. It's about us going out there and just getting better every day."

There are bosses everywhere struggling to find employees who possess that sort of maturity and selflessness.

Has Jones always operated that way?

"To me, I guess it comes with growing up," he said. "It comes with being mature."

Sounds like team captain material to me -- maybe even with his injury.

4. Nebraska senior receiver De'Mornay Pierson-El has been named to the watch list for the 2017 Paul Hornung Award.

The award, in its eighth season, is given annually to the most versatile player in college football by the Louisville Sports Commission.

Is Pierson-El versatile enough to play some corner?

Just kidding. I think.

By the way, I thought the 5-9, 195-pound Pierson-El would have been an excellent choice to replace Jones as one of three player representatives for Nebraska next week at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago. Pierson-El typically gives mature and measured responses to media questions.

Turns out, Aaron Williams got the nod. He's a good choice, too.

Same goes for Tanner Lee and Chris Weber.

5. Deiontae Watts already has been scratched from Nebraska's 2017 recruiting class. Keyshawn Johnson Jr. won't be part of the team this season and his future status is up in the air. We're still wondering if four-star cornerback Elijah Blades will enroll at NU.

Considering these developments, how much differently do you regard the Huskers' class of 2017, particularly if Blades is indeed headed to Arizona Western College (as has been widely speculated)?

The 20-member scholarship class, when intact, was ranked 23rd in the 247Sports Composite.

Bottom line, I'll wait until 2020 or 2021 to judge the group.

Yeah, I know, boring.

6. You don't need me to tell you recruiting is an inexact science. 

You already know it for hundreds of reasons, including the fact none of the major Florida schools offered a scholarship to this guy:

Enjoy your Monday.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.


Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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