August 14, 2010

Saturday notebook: NU holds first scrimmage

As Nebraska wrapped up its first week of fall camp on Saturday, it spiced things up a bit by holding its first full scrimmage of the fall.

Head coach Bo Pelini said he saw positives from both the offense and the defense during the scrimmage, which he said lasted roughly an hour. It wasn't a perfect performance by any means, but for where the team is at this point, Pelini said he was pleased overall with how the Huskers have progressed through Week 1.

"I saw some good things on both sides. I saw some sloppy things," Pelini said. "We're about where I thought we'd be right now, which was not good enough to play championship football yet, but that's why we're in camp and why we're practicing."

Pelini said he was mostly concerned about seeing clean football and using the scrimmage as a way to evaluate various position battles and the progress made by some of his younger players.

Some of the positives he took away from the scrimmage was the play of the quarterbacks and running backs. As has been the case all fall, Pelini said the reps for the quarterbacks were divided evenly during the scrimmage. As for the running backs, he said the unit ran as hard and physical as ever.

While he did see some of the good plays he was hoping to see, Pelini said he also saw some mistakes that definitely needed to be cleaned up over the next two weeks of camp.

In particular, he said there were far too many instances of sloppy tackling and protection breakdowns from the offensive line. While the miscues were obviously disappointing, Pelini said many of them were to be expected from a team just one week into fall camp.

"I wish we were a hair sharper," Pelini said, "but I also know realistically that we've only been practicing for about a week now."

Overall, Pelini said he felt the offense has made some big strides over the course of the offseason. If Saturday's scrimmage was any indication, it appears the offense is beginning to close the gap a bit between it and the defense in practice.

"I think we're running the system well," Pelini said. "We're deeper, which obviously makes you better. I feel we have more guys capable of playing winning football for us. I think we're showing some physicality in the run game, which I really like."

- Robin Washut

Saturday fall camp takes
McNeill, Smith graduate: There was no reason for concern when it became known that senior wide receiver Mike McNeill was not in attendance for the final practice of Week 1 on Saturday. Turns out, he was busy getting his diploma. With the final summer session of classes wrapping up this week at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, McNeill and teammate Mike Smith were both excused from Saturday's session in order to attend their graduation ceremonies. McNeill earned his degree in business administration, and Smith earned his in marketing.
Middleton, Bell join 105: Nebraska made two more updates to its 105-man roster on Saturday, as redshirt freshman cornerback Lazarri Middleton and true freshman wide receiver Kenny Bell were both added to the list. Middleton was a surprise omission earlier this week, as he was expected to compete for playing time at right cornerback this season. Bell was initially left off while he healed from a hamstring injury he suffered prior to the start of camp. Pelini said he wasn't sure off the top of his head who Middleton and Bell replaced on the 105.
Injury update: There were no new injuries reported following Saturday's practice, which is good news for a team that has already suffered some big blows through the first week of camp. With the day off on Sunday, the Huskers should be able to rest up and let some of the nagging issues players may have been dealing with heal up.
What's on tap next: The Nebraska football team conducted a two hour full-padded practice on the fields north of Memorial Stadium on Saturday. The Huskers have the day off on Sunday before returning to practice again for the start of Week 2 on Monday.

Rome working with starting defense

As if the competition for the starting defensive tackle spot along side senior Jared Crick wasn't already intense enough with sophomore Baker Steinkuhler and junior Terrence Morre battling it out, things are getting even tighter.

Pelini said that true freshman Chase Rome has been working with the No. 1 and No. 2 defensive units during the first week of camp, and that his progress has been very impressive thus far.

After coming to Nebraska regarded by many as one of the best prep players in Missouri, Rome enrolled at NU early and was able to practice with the Huskers this past spring. Pelini said the 6-foot-3, 280-pounder definitely gained from getting himself in the sytem a few months early.

"Chase Rome is really coming along," Pelini said. "He's playing good football… He's definitely in the mix right now. He's been repping with the ones and twos and getting in there and playing some good football for us. Hopefully that will continue. I think having that spring helped him a little bit."

- Robin Washut

Gomes' versatility a valuable weapon

Senior DeJon Gomes may have moved from cornerback to safety this offseason, but to list him at just one position would be quite an understatement.

Along with being a projected starter at safety this season, Gomes is also working as the starting dime back in Nebraska's dime formation, which features six defensive backs and one linebacker.

Because of his physicality and ability to play the run, Gomes is essentially a second linebacker in the dime. Pelini said the skill set Gomes brings to the table allows him to do a lot of different things with his defensive formations and play calling.

"He can kind of do a lot of things for us," Pelini said. "I think his progress has been great. He's playing well at safety, and he's already shown everybody how good he is at dime, and he really takes that back to the safety position."

- Robin Washut

Quick hits

***Another young defensive lineman who Pelini said he's seen a lot of progress and potential in has been sophomore end Jason Ankrah.

"He's gotten better," Pelini said. "He still makes some young mistakes, but I'm seeing progress, which is a real positive. I'm excited about that. I think he's going to be a real good football player for us."

***Pelini said he's liked what he's seen from sophomore tight end Kyler Reed this offseason, saying Reed has come into camp with much for confidence.

"I think overall he's more confident," Pelini said. "He's playing with a little bit of attitude. He's playing well. He's made some plays. I think he's going to be a player. I really like what I see."

***The Huskers will get their first day off on Sunday since the start of fall camp. With a full day to themselves, Pelini said he's made sure to stress responsibility and accountability off the field to his players.

"I just talked to the Unity Council about it," he said. "They're going to set the ground rules, the curfew and what we expect… Guys have to be smart. They've got to protect each other, they've got to know what's at stake and make good decision. Not only will I address that, the leadership of this team will address that."

***Whoever ends up winning the starting left tackle job, Pelini said he's sure the position would be in good hands with junior Jermarcus Hardrick and Jeremiah Sirles battling it out.

"It's progressing well," Pelini said. "Those guys are both getting better. They've making progress… I think that position is pretty well manned right now. I think they're doing a good job, because I see progress."

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