April 13, 2009

Monday notebook: Who will replace Paul?

While no one other than head coach Bo Pelini could speak on the suspension of junior receiver Niles Paul following Monday's practice, the issue of who would step up and fill his shoes in Saturday's spring game was fair game.

Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said that while he had already planned to give an equal number of snaps to the majority of his receiving corps during the Red-White scrimmage, he admitted that Paul's absence would at least give a chance for some of the younger wide outs to get a few more looks than they otherwise might have with Paul in the game.

Specifically, Watson said players like sophomore Marcus Mendoza and freshman Antonio Bell would have a better opportunity to prove themselves on Saturday.

"I think it probably would've been open no matter what because of the way we would've rode them," Watson said. "We'll see those guys at different spots… I think their opportunities would've been about the same. Maybe a lot of the younger players probably opened up more of an opportunity, like Marcus or Antonio."

For the other receivers, it was obviously difficult to see one of their teammates and veteran leaders have such an abrupt and disappointing end to his spring. At the same time, though, they also realize the opportunities that could arise with Paul's absence.

"We want to lift him up, definitely, because he's not going to be there," sophomore receiver Curenski Gilleylen said. "But it also brings a lot of attention to the younger guys, because they're going to get some more reps that they probably wouldn't have gotten if he was going to be there. It's going to give opportunities for other guys to show what they can do.

"I think that's how everybody's taking it, just as an opportunity to do what can do."

- Robin Washut

Monday spring practice takes
Sidelines or field?: During last year's Red-White game scrimmage, the Husker defensive staff coached on the field for the entire game, instead of the sidelines. Defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said more than likely the staff won't coach from the field this year. "I don't feel the need this year," Pelini said. "Our guys are a little bit more advanced this year and we'll just let them go out and play a little bit. I always want to be out there, so I'll probably find myself out there at some point. I am going to try to stay away and let them play."
Game format: Carl Pelini also said that the two teams will be divided up equally and there won't be any one's vs. two's at Saturday's Red-White game. He also said that the staff still might hold a draft, similar to what they did a year ago. "I think we are going to divide teams and let them get after it and have some fun," Pelini said. "We'll stay pretty vanilla on defense and offense and just let them go out and play fundamental football."
Injury update: Senior offensive lineman Jacob Hickman returned to practice on Monday, but junior running back Roy Helu (hamstring) and junior linebacker Blake Lawrence (head) both remain out with injury. Redshirt freshman quarterback Kody Spano also got dinged up on Monday, but the injury doesn't appear to be serious.
What's on tap next: The Nebraska football team held a 2 1⁄2 full-padded practice on the grass fields north of Memorial Stadium on Monday. NU will take the field for their 13th official practice of the spring on Wednesday at 3:45 p.m. and their final workout before the Red-White game will be on Thursday morning.

Carl Pelini's grade out

As spring football comes to a close, Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini gave some of his thoughts about the defense through 12 practices.

Pelini said at defensive tackle, redshirt sophomore Jared Crick has emerged as the clear cut No. 1 guy right now alongside senior Ndamukong Suh.

Pelini said both redshirt sophomore Terrence Moore and redshirt freshman Baker Steinkuhler will be in the rotation right behind them.

"In the end, they are probably all going to play equal snaps and they are all progressing well," Pelini said.

Pelini also said that the defensive tackles will play both the right and left sides this year and they won't be locked into just one position.

"Suh is going to be switching sides some this year," Pelini said. "I'm not going to play those guys just left or right, I'm going to move them around some. All four of them are going to rotate both sides of the football."

As for the status of senior defensive end Barry Turner, Pelini said he's coming along this spring, but he's not quite back to full speed.

Pelini expects Turner to be back to his normal self when fall camps starts back up in August.

"Barry gets better every day," Pelini said. "He's still not changing direction the way you like him to. What I have noticed the last few days is his quickness and his speed out of his stance is good. It's his lateral movement that's continuing to get better, but that's what's going to come last.

"He's a war daddy. He fights through it and he doesn't miss any snaps. I'm happy with how he's progressed this spring. He's a lot further along than I thought he would be at this point."

At cornerback, Pelini said he's been impressed with the springs both juniors Prince Amukamara and Anthony West have had.

What Pelini has probably liked the most is the fact the defensive backs have found more ways to force turnovers this spring by being aggressive and taking more chances.

"Prince has had a great spring and West has stepped up," Pelini said. "(Alfonzo) Dennard has played well, (Anthony) Blue has played well. Every day it seems like a different one is stepping up and making plays for us, and that's what we need. We need a lot of depth there. It makes you better at the nickel position and everywhere else

-Sean Callahan

Quick hits

***Redshirt freshman quarterback Kody Spano left practice early with a member of Nebraska's training staff with what looked to be a back or lower body injury. He walked off the field under his own power, but he definitely had a limp to his step.

"He got dinged up," Watson said. "I don't know what he did, but we'll check on him. I have no idea what he did."

***Gilleylen is considered one of the fastest players on the team, but he hasn't timed in a 40-yard dash since his junior year of high school. Gilleylen projected that it would be between him, wide receivers Antonio Bell and Marcus Mendoza, safety Rickey Thenarse and cornerback [/db]Anthony West[/db] for the fastest 40 time on the team.

***Junior quarterback Zac Lee said he has no idea how many reps he'll see in Saturday's Red-White game.

"You have just as good of an idea as I do," Lee said. "I have no idea yet."

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