March 29, 2012

Green looking to take on expanded role

After taking some time after the season and to look back at his freshman season, Aaron Green decided he needed to get bigger.

If he were to take on a larger role in the offense this year as the coaching staff has suggested this spring, Green thought he could stand to tack on some pounds to his 5-foot-11, 195-lb. frame.

But about two months into the attempt, the running back conceded. His attempts had proven futile. He managed to maintain his speed and elusiveness, however, and it was time to embrace that part of his game.

"I just wasn't gaining the weight," Green said. "I don't know if I was running a lot or what. But it's all good. If my heart is big enough, I can play. I got a lot stronger and faster."

The Huskers are looking to take some weight off the shoulders of senior Rex Burkhead this fall. Last season, Burkhead toted the ball 284 times, good for nearly 75 percent of the carries given to NU running backs. He had 22 or more carries in seven of the Huskers' final eight contests, including games with 35 and 38 carries.

The coaches don't want to lean so heavily on Burkhead again. They expected to get more production from the freshman trio of Green, Braylon Heard and Ameer Abdullah last fall. But they combined for only 91 carries, most of which came early in the season or in mop-up duty. Green's 24 carries were the fewest among the group.

But things have changed this spring. Heard has been moved to cornerback and Abdullah is working on fixing his fumbling problems. His value on special teams could also limit how much the coaches want to use him in the offense.

All of which leaves the door open for Green, and he recognizes the opportunity.

"Every day I've just got to come out and work hard and try to get to that point," he said. "We've got to get to the point where there's no dropoff when Rex comes out of the game."

That's easier said than done. Burkhead rushed for 1,357 yards and 15 touchdowns last year and was named First-team All-Big Ten for his efforts.

But even a hypercompetitive back like Burkhead admits that a rest every once in a while would be a welcome sight. He said he's done his best to tutor the young guns so that when those chances arise, they can fully seize them.

And maybe it can save some miles on his tires in the process.

"The younger backs have talent and they can definitely come out on the field and perform whenever they're given the chance," Burkhead said. "It'll definitely help for games on down the road. You see teams that have multiple running backs, not only in the NFL, but in college football as well. And you've got to have multiple backs because it's a long season, especially in the Big Ten conference."

Green said he's much more comfortable with comfortable with the playbook now and spent his spring break in the film room devouring any tape he could get his hands on. When he went home to San Antonio for a few days, he took some DVDs with him and watched them on his laptop.

He's gotten himself to the point where he believes he's ready for any role the coaches give him - including playing in the slot, although he said he hasn't been asked to do that yet.

"I'm real hungry, and that's the ultimate goal - to get out there and contribute any way I can," Green said. "Anything I can do to help is fine."

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