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Thursday notebook: Jaimes making a push at LT

It’s not all that surprising to hear about a young offensive lineman making a push up the depth chart during fall camp, but when it’s a true freshman doing it, a few more eyebrows get raised.

Such has been the case for Brenden Jaimes, as the true freshman from Austin (Texas) Lake Travis has made a rapid rise up the o-line depth rotation since joining the mix this fall.

In fact, the 6-foot-5, 250-pounder already elevated to working as the No. 2 left tackle for the bulk of Thursday’s full-pads practice inside Memorial Stadium.

“Really athletic and smart,” offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said of Jaimes. “I think that gives you a chance, especially at that position. So I’ve been really pleased with how fast he’s come along, especially being a true freshman.

“It’s not easy, and I think he’s done a nice job really pushing that backup tackle position.”

Jaimes came to Nebraska as a three-star recruit who anchored the offensive line on a Lake Travis team that averaged nearly 500 yards per game and went 15-1 en route to a Texas Class 6A, Division 1 state title.

Despite holding a slew of Power 5 offers from the likes of Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor, Illinois, California, Colorado and more, Jaimes only took one college visit to Nebraska and committed to the Huskers in April of 2016.

His play since arriving on campus this summer hasn’t only impressed his coaches, but his fellow offensive linemen as well.

“He’s done a really good job,” starting left tackle Nick Gates said. “He’s stepped in and he’s taking No. 2 reps right now. He learns, he’s in the meeting rooms and he writes stuff down. He’s very, very coachable, which (offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh) loves.

“He’s going to be a good player here soon. He takes things from the meeting room and brings it out on to the field. When Cav tells him to do something on the field, he does it the next play. He’ll probably be a drafted guy in the next four to five years.”

- Robin Washut

Freshman Thomas opening eyes 

Of all the things that jumped out from Thursday’s practice, maybe the most eye-opening development was freshman defensive lineman Deontre Thomas working with the No. 1 defense.

What was even more surprising was Thomas worked as a nose tackle and not a defensive end.

“He’s doing a great job,” Cavanaugh said of Thomas. “He’s fun now. The guy is powerful and he’s explosive, and he’s got some stuff to him, and he’s doing a great job with (John) Parrella. He’s an explosive guy, and he’s fun to watch every day and compete against.”

The thing that probably separates Thomas from other typical true freshmen is his combination of speed and power. On one play Thursday, he tossed center Cole Conrad into the backfield and got pressure on quarterback Tanner Lee.

“He’s quick,” Cavanaugh said. “He’s got nice quickness and good get-off. He does a nice job.”

- Sean Callahan

Wide out J.D. Spielman is making the most of his increased first-team reps this fall.
Wide out J.D. Spielman is making the most of his increased first-team reps this fall.

Spielman taking advantage of opportunity 

No player ever wants to see one of his teammates miss time with an injury, especially someone at his own position.

But when senior receiver Keyan Williams went down last week with a pulled hamstring, J.D. Spielman couldn’t help but look at it as an opened window of opportunity.

With Williams still sidelined by his injury, Spielman has stepped in as the new No. 1 slot receiver on Nebraska’s first-team offense the past few practices. He’s certainly made the most of his increased reps, too.

“I’ve definitely viewed this as an opportunity to get a lot more reps,” Spielman said. “I’m obviously hoping that (Williams) recovers fast so he can get back on the field and play along with me. But I’ve definitely viewed this as an opportunity to get a lot more reps, especially working with the ones.”

Spielman nearly cracked NU’s wide receiver rotation last year as a true freshman, but the coaching staff was able to resist the urge to play him and held onto his redshirt.

Now with a year of experience under his belt, Spielman said he feels much more confident in the offense from where he was a year ago. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s already built up a nice rapport with new starting quarterback Tanner Lee.

“I definitely feel some chemistry with Tanner,” Spielman said. “When we were throwing routes in the summer, I could feel that our timing was coming together and we were really starting to click.

“Especially coming out of spring ball, we were really starting to click. So after the whole summer of running routes and just practicing, I feel like we’ve really got it down.”

- Robin Washut

More praise for rising tight end Hoppes

The praise for senior Tyler Hoppes started back last season when he wasn’t even a factor in Nebraska’s tight end rotation, and it’s only gained more and more steam every day since.

Langsdorf offered even more hype for the senior following Thursday’s practice when asked how having a player of Hoppes' ability at the tight end position could benefit Nebraska’s offense.

“He’s had a great camp,” Langsdorf said. “He’s made a ton of plays. He’s been a red zone threat. He’s a great matchup with the linebacker and the safety. He’s really athletic and has good hands, I like how he runs the routes, and he’s improved as a blocker.

“He’s really become an all-around player, and it’s been great to see. He’s probably playing as well as anyone on the offense.”

Asked to compare Hoppes to other tight ends he’d coached in the past, Langsdorf said the Lincoln native brought many of the same positive attributes NU had last year with Cethan Carter and Sam Cotton.

But as far as a better overall comparison, Langsdorf pointed to former Oregon State standout Connor Hamlett, who ended his career ranked on OSU’s top-five all-time lists for career receptions (104, third) and yards (1,109, fifth).

Hamlett is now entering his third season in the NFL now as a member of the Dallas Cowboys.

“(Hamlett) was a big, tall target, and (Hoppes) has been similar to him in the way that he goes up and gets the ball in traffic,” Langsdorf said. “I’ve just really been pleased with how he’s been able to get open in man coverage and make some tough, contested catches.”

- Robin Washut

Nose tackle Mick Stoltenberg sat out of practice again on Thursday.
Nose tackle Mick Stoltenberg sat out of practice again on Thursday. (Tyler Krecklow)

Quick hits

***Players who sat out of Thursday’s practice were Williams, running back Tre Bryant, receiver Bryan Reimers, and nose tackle Mick Stoltenberg.

***Defensive end DaiShon Neal was back in action after sitting out on Tuesday.

***Freshman wide out Tyjon Lindsey had another impressive practice on Thursday, including making two long catches on passes from Lee. Langsdorf said that while Lindsey still has his freshman moments, Thursday was a pretty good example of what Lindsey could bring to the table.

***Langsdorf said the No. 2 quarterback reps are still being split up evenly between Patrick O’Brien and Tristan Gebbia, and both QBs have had their share of good and bad days.

***Once again, Langsdorf said there hasn’t been any separation at running back thus far through camp. Head coach Mike Riley said on Saturday that if one of the backs didn’t emerge from the back by the end of this week, NU would probably go into it’s Arkansas State prep with a running back-by-committee approach.