Football Special Section 2015

LINCOLN, NEB - 08/04/2015 Nebraska defensive end Greg McMullen "throws the bones" during a media photo shoot on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015, at Memorial Stadium. MATT RYERSON/Lincoln Journal Star

While the depth beyond Nebraska's starting defensive ends remains a question mark, the two guys at the top seem to have earned the faith of their new coaches.

Defensive coordinator Mark Banker said Greg McMullen and Jack Gangwish are now experienced and connected enough that they're communicating from opposite sides of the ball about adjustments each should make before a snap.

The junior McMullen comes across as sharp as he is big. And he's got big covered. Stand next to him and he looks even bigger than the 6-foot-3, 280 pounds he's listed in the media guide.

McMullen feels like there will be some rotating on that defensive line. Banker has said he plans to rotate more than NU previously did. But the veteran is also ready to go as many snaps as needed.

"If they rotate a whole lot and they play a bunch of guys, that's a plus," he said. "But if not, the guys that they got in there have to be able to hold it down and sustain 10-play drives, 12-play drives, or over the course of a game 70 or 80 plays. Obviously I've been through that playing 70-80 snaps a game, and if it happens again this year, it is what it is, I'm prepared for it. Can't run away from it."

McMullen said he's a lot stronger this year after the offseason work with Husker football strength and conditioning coach Mark Philipp.

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"They do things a lot different than our last staff. I enjoyed it. It definitely transitioned to our play on the field and the durability and endurance that I have."

McMullen said he's a tough critic of himself. He always wants to be a little bit faster and stronger than the year before. "Whatever it may be that everybody should judge what Greg should fix, I tend to do it myself."

He also wants to be as good a mentor as he can be to those players behind him. Right now it appears Freedom Akinmoladun and Ross Dzuris are the first two defensive ends off the bench.

McMullen wants to give a player like Akinmoladun the same help he received from veteran players when he was newer to the program.

"Kind of like what Jason Ankrah did for me, Eric Martin and Cam Meredith, they were teaching me the little basics of the game, whether it's footwork, technique, hand placement, alignment and assignments. I've taken them under my wing because why leave them high and dry if we're teammates?

"We're brothers. We're out here grinding like everybody else."

Reach the writer at bchristopherson@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.


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