October 16, 2008

Thursday notebook: Blue returns to practice field

Since blowing out his knee during conditioning drills last winter, sophomore cornerback Anthony Blue has been making small, steady steps towards making a full recovery.

This week, he took one of his biggest steps yet.

For the first time since his injury, Blue began practicing again with his teammates in a limited capacity on Monday. Following Thursday's practice, Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini had rave reviews of Blue's recovery.

"We're not playing Anthony this year, but he's doing well for where he is," Pelini said. "I think he's kind of ahead of schedule of where I thought he'd be right now. Right now we're hoping just to work him in slowly but surely so he gains that confidence back and he's ready in the winter and the spring. I think he's right on course."

Pelini said Blue has spent his first week back working mostly in individual drills, but has even taken some reps with NU's first-team defense in ones-on-ones work. Though he's still working primarily with the scout team, Pelini said he would continue to ease Blue back in work with the regular defense throughout the year.

Prior to this week, Blue had only working on rehabbing his knee by doing running and light agility drills during practice. On Thursday, he ended the day covering senior wide receiver Todd Peterson downfield on the final play of practice.

While Blue is still far from returning to 100 percent, Pelini said he was eager to see just how good Blue could be when both his knee and his confidence make full recoveries.

"I'm excited," Pelini said. "I watched him go through individual the other day, and he looked good. I didn't see any signs of a limp. Right now, it's about gaining confidence. He knows it's coming back. I think little by little it's going to happen. The quicker we get him out there, the more confident he's going to be."

-Robin Washut

Thursday practice takes
Ames connection: The only current scholarship player on the Nebraska football team from Iowa is freshman tight end Ben Cotton. The 6-foot-6 Cotton actually attended Ames High for all four years of high school. His father Barney Cotton coached at ISU from 2004 to 2006, but the family chose to stay in Ames for the 2007 season so Ben Cotton could finish his senior year of high school. Before Cotton was rehired at Nebraska, Ben Cotton was planning to sign with Louisville. Cotton changed his commit once his father got the job and the Huskers officially came in with a scholarship offer.
Shaky back-up situation: If Iowa State starting quarterback Austen Arnaud were to go down with injury on Saturday, his back-up is true freshman Jerome Tiller. At this point, Tiller is still in his redshirt, but if they had to pull it, head coach Gene Chizik said they would.
Injury update: Senior linebacker Cody Glenn, junior linebacker Phillip Dillard and sophomore defensive end Pierre Allen all practiced on Thursday and made it through workouts every day this week. All three are expected to start on Saturday.
What's on tap next: The Nebraska football team conducted a 90-minute practice in half pads inside Memorial Stadium on Thursday. NU will bus to their team hotel in West Des Moines on Friday afternoon. The Huskers will not hold a walk-thru practice in Ames.

Chizik impressed with NU's swagger

As Iowa State head coach Gene Chizik broke down the film of Nebraska's game at Texas Tech, he said it was hard not to be impressed with improvements the Huskers made from their previous week's loss to Missouri.

Chizik said both offensively and defensively he saw major improvements with the way the Huskers played last week.

"Really good football team, very physical," Chzik said. "Offensively, really, really good. Joe Ganz is playing really well-amazing that they took that ball down the field there and got it into overtime with under a minute left, just a great drive. Great catches and he put the ball right on the money in some places that he could only put the ball for the ball to be caught.

"I think they're playing really well. And then defensively, again, Bo I'm sure is injecting his defense and they're getting better. But they've played some really good football teams. It's amazing what they did defensively against Texas Tech, that's a tough offense to slow down. They held them in check. They really did a great job of rebounding from the week before against Missouri. They're playing with a lot of confidence and a lot of swagger."

-Sean Callahan

Quick hits

***If there was still any question on whether Nebraska would be at a disadvantage this weekend playing on natural grass for the first time this season, Pelini pretty much put all those worries to rest on Thursday.

"We practice so much on (grass) that it doesn't affect us," he said. "I prefer grass."

***The Huskers' game against Iowa State won't be the only showdown Pelini will have his eye on Saturday. Fellow Youngstown, Ohio, native and current middleweight boxing champion Kelly Pavlik will take the ring against Benard Hopkins in a non-title bout Saturday night in Atlantic City, N.J.

As could be expected, Pelini, an avid boxing fan, offered his pre-fight analysis.

"Oh yeah, we follow Kelly," he said. "I went and saw him fight in the winter time. He'll win. He's a bad man."

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