August 10, 2010

Tuesday notebook: Change is good for DBs

When it comes to offseason position changes, no group on Nebraska's roster has seen more turnover than its defensive backs. Heading into camp, two players had already made the move from cornerback to safety, and another jumped across the line of scrimmage from wide receiver to corner this fall.

With all the moves has come a lot of readjusting for the players in the process of learning new positions.

Seniors Anthony West and DeJon Gomes moved from cornerback to safety in the spring, and both have excelled since making the change. In fact, as of Tuesday, both Gomes and West were working with the No. 1 defense at the two safety spots.

While Gomes working with the ones isn't too much of a surprise since he spent the majority of the spring there, West's ascent up the depth chart has been a bit unexpected. Coming into the fall, many had expected sophomore P.J. Smith to win the other starting job next to Gomes.

At the moment, at least, it looks as if those assumptions may have been premature.

"It's staring to (click)," West said. "Like Coach (Bo Pelini) says, nobody has arrived, and I know for a fact that I still haven't learned the defense like I could. So there's still a lot of work to do. It's just having that mindset when you go out there knowing that you've got to work and keep working."

Gomes said he's also still trying to fully adjust to his new position. He said the hardest part has been becoming aware of the entire defense as opposed to just focusing on one receiver or area of the field like he did as the nickel back last year.

The third move in the secondary has been sophomore Antonio Bell, who moved from wide receiver to cornerback this fall. Bell, who played corner in high school, said he's more than welcomed the move, and that cornerback was the position he's always wanted to play.

"I always felt like that was the position I wanted to play and what I was supposed to play," Bell said. "I played it in high school and growing up I loved the position. Coach (Marvin Sanders) said I had talent and that they've seen the potential, and so we're just going to try some things out."

Bell said he's been playing both right and left corner so far during camp, but spent all of Tuesday solely at left corner. He said redshirt freshman Dijon Washington has been the only other corner to work at both sides this fall.

Wherever the coaches ask him to play, Bell just wants to find the sport where he can get on the field as much as possible.

"I was very comfortable at receiver, I just always felt like I could play corner," Bell said. "That's where I've always wanted to play. If I had to stay at receiver, I would've stayed at receiver. I love receiver too. I love playing football. So whatever it takes to help the team, that's what I'm going to do."

- Robin Washut

Tuesday fall camp takes
Huskers move inside: After making it through one of the hotter practices in recent memory yesterday, Nebraska stayed inside in the air conditioning of the Hawks Indoor Championship facility for its fourth fall practice on Tuesday. The NCAA has a suggested heat index limit in which teams are allowed to practice outside. Word is that Monday's heat index of more than 110 degrees was roughly 10 degrees higher than the NCAA suggested limit. With the air conditioning going, temperatures only reached the low-80s inside the Hawks Indoor facility.
Ash rejoins the 105: Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Nick Ash, who was originally left off the 105-man roster, returned to practice for the first time this fall on Tuesday. It appears that Ash has replaced junior fullback Mike Hays on the 105. After practicing with the team during the fall camp opener on Saturday, Hays has not been seen at any practices since.
Injury update: Junior offensive tackle Jermarcus Hardrick, who was taken away in an ambulance following yesterday's practice, did not participate on Tuesday. Senior offensive guard Keith Williams was also held out of practice for the second straight day with a pulled muscle. Head coach Bo Pelini said yesterday he expects Williams to return to practice on Wednesday. The Huskers may have suffered yet another setback on the o-line on Tuesday, as senior Mike Smith was seen being carted off the field with an apparent leg injury. We won't have confirmation on Smith's status until Pelini addresses the media on Wednesday.
What's on tap next: The Nebraska football team conducted a two hour half-padded practice inside the Hawks Indoor Championship Facility on Tuesday. The Huskers will take the field again on Wednesday for their first full-padded practice of fall camp.

Bell: Hardrick OK following heat scare

As soon as Bell saw his best friend and teammate Jermarcus Hardrick collapse on the field from heat exhaustion at the end of Monday's practice, he knew something was wrong.

When he saw the fire truck and ambulance pull up in the Hawks Indoor Championship Facility to take Hardrick to the hospital, Bell was downright scared.

"When I first saw him on the field, I wanted to make sure he was all right," Bell said. "He's like my best friend. I'm with him every single day ever since he got here. I saw the ambulance, and I was kind of worried and had to make sure he was all right."

Hardrick was back at practice Tuesday, but only watched from the sideline in shorts and a t-shirt. Bell said Hardrick called him from the hospital on Monday and told him everything was going to be fine, and Bell said he expects the junior offensive tackle to be back in pads by the end of the week.

"He's doing pretty good," Bell said. "He called me last night when he got to the hospital and he told everything was all right. So he's doing good. He might sit out a day or two of practice, and hopefully sometime this week he'll be back in pads. I miss him."

Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson was the only coach to formerly address the media on Tuesday, and he opted to leave any official update on Hardrick's status to Pelini. Pelini is scheduled to talk with reporters following Wednesday's practice.

"Coach is going to talk about that one, so I don't even want to mess with that one," Watson said. "He'll talk about it."

- Robin Washut

Taking things inside

After practicing outside the last three days, the Nebraska football team took things indoors in the climate controlled Hawks Center on Tuesday.

The practice temperature inside was around 80 degrees on Tuesday, meanwhile outside the heat index readings in Lincoln were once again well over 100 degrees.

Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said it was an easy decision by the staff to move things inside the Hawks on Tuesday.

"It's just smart," Watson said. "Because when you go outside it's so hot and you don't get anything done. After a while the human body just wears down. That, plus we want practices that are high intensity practices where we are able to execute for the duration of practice. It's smart to go inside for also the health risks that could be because of how hot it is. We came inside though because we wanted to get our practices more crisp."

From a players standpoint sophomore linebacker Will Compton said he had no complaints about the decision to come inside.

"It's great to be inside when they get the air going," Compton said. "You are out their running around and you feel way better than being out there in the heat and you are having fun running around instead of thinking of how much water you are going to douse all over yourself when you get to the sideline."

-Sean Callahan

Welcome to China

For any true freshman the first week of fall camp is a huge adjustment, but even more so for quarterback Brion Carnes.

Watson compared the transition for Carnes moving from high school to college football on Monday like moving to a foreign country.

"He's in China," Watson said of Carnes. "What I try to do with freshmen is we are trying to advance ourselves with a group of veterans and we are getting ready to play. I don't put the fire hose out there in front of him, I just give him the garden hose.

"We really tame it down for him so he can get his feet underneath him and he can learn to execute the huddle."

With that said, Watson said he sees quite a bit of promise in Carnes, despite the fact he's still trying to learn the offense.

"Brion is a good player, he's going to be a really good player," Watson said. "Brion has a real nice arm, he's really athletic and he's got great feet. He's got everything you look for in a quarterback to do what we do. I'm really encouraged with what I see out of him."

-Sean Callahan

Huskers still learning about new iPads

A couple of weeks ago former Husker defensive tackle and current Detroit Lion Ndaumkong Suh made another generous donation to the NU athletic department.

Suh gave the football program iPads for every locker, making Nebraska the only known football program in the country to have this type of technology. The iPads are mounted on the top of each locker and Compton said right now they are limited to emails only.

"We can't do a whole lot with them," Compton said. "We can just check our email, but they kind of got it where we can't mess with them because we've got goof balls in the locker room and everybody would be joking around and putting up funny pics and stuff like that. You can't have that with recruits all around. They're awesome and you can't get any better than that and we thank Suh for that."

The long term plan for the iPads is to integrate them with the day-to-day operations of the football program as much as possible. For now, they're still a work in process.

"I think here in a few months we'll be able to do more with them," Compton said. "But I think now they're trying to get it down where they know more of what's going on as far as letting them run loose. People know things about them and you can do different things with them, so I think they're trying learn a little more about them before they let us go with it."

-Sean Callahan

Quick hits

***Watson had some strong words of praise to describe the potential of freshman offensive lineman Andrew Rodriguez in the Husker program.

"He's going to be a really good player," Watson said of Rodriguez. "He's got size and strength that a lot of freshmen don't have. He's been very impressive just in his skill set. He's got a lot of technique work to do and the learning curve of what we do and how we do what we do, but he's eager and he's got a skill set and I believe he's going to be a really, really good player. He's got a good attitude. He's a hard worker."

***Compton said he and fellow linebacker Mathew May have a new nickname to go with their freshly grown mustaches. Both May and Compton attempted to dye their mustaches black, but let's just say the color resembles more of a blue.

"Me and May just kind of named them 'black ice,'" Compton joked. "Me and May like to think of ourselves as the Mario Brothers."

***As much as Gomes would love to light up a few opposing receivers this season, big hits are going to have to take a back seat if there's a chance he can haul in an interception.

"If it comes, it comes, but I'm not going to be looking for the kill shot, personally," Gomes said. "If it's between killing the receiver and getting an interception, I'm going to try and get the ball back for the offense."

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