LINCOLN — Nebraska basketball coach Tim Miles had been a part of one. So was University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman. And the NU women’s basketball team.
At the end of the Huskers’ opening spring football practice, Bo Pelini and his players joined the Harlem Shake dance craze with a 40-second video posted to YouTube. Pelini started the video by pretending to get angry at wide receiver Jamal Turner, who started dancing around all of the defensive players, who pretended to ignore him.
The video then cut to the whole team — many players dressed in outfits and suits — dancing, with Pelini — his trademark white ballcap turned backward — front and center.
“Bo did good — it was funny,” guard Spencer Long said. “I was actually kind of shocked that we did that, but it was cool.”
Young defense passes first test
Though it was just the first day of workouts, Nebraska’s secondary fared well against the Huskers’ top offense in 7-on-7 passing drills.
Seniors Ciante Evans and Stanley Jean-Batiste and junior Josh Mitchell all made their share of plays. Jean-Baptiste intercepted quarterback Taylor Martinez and broke up several more passes downfield. Evans often drew the assignment of Jamal Turner, blanketing the junior on routes over the middle. Martinez was often left double-clutching — waiting for routes that never came open — or throwing into double coverage.
“We were energized, ready, hyped up,” Evans said. “We have to carry that moving forward. Everybody wants to be out there for the first day and make plays. But it’s about consistency. Make the same plays you made on Day 1 on Day 11, Day 13.”
Inexperienced but enthusiastic
Nowhere did graduation hit Nebraska harder than at linebacker, where fifth-year seniors Will Compton, Sean Fisher and Alonzo Whaley played their last games in the Capital One Bowl.
That has opened the door for redshirt freshmen Thomas Brown, Michael Rose and Jared Afalava to get their looks, as well as true freshman Courtney Love.
“They may mess up, but they’re going to mess up full speed,” senior defensive end Jason Ankrah said. “All those guys are just athletic and happy to be out there. They just love playing football.”
Among the non-freshmen at linebacker are Zaire Anderson, David Santos, Trevor Roach and Max Pirman. Anderson got steady reps with the No. 1s in his first practice back after injuring a knee last September.
Leaner Cross impresses Bo
I-back Imani Cross showed up Saturday looking a little different from last season when he played as a true freshman.
Pelini said Cross started spring practice at about 220 pounds, 10 below his weight last season.
“He looks real good,” Pelini said.
Will that be Cross’ playing weight? Pelini said that’s something the Huskers will revisit after spring practice.
“He’s a big guy, and he doesn’t have a lot of body fat,” Pelini said. “So we’re kind of evaluating and he’s evaluating kind of what his ideal weight’s going to be.”
Cross, from Gainesville, Ga., rushed for 324 yards and scored on seven of his 55 carries last season. Because of the loss of Rex Burkhead and the transfer of Braylon Heard, Cross and Ameer Abdullah are the only scholarship I-backs going through spring drills before Terrell Newby and Adam Taylor come in the summer.
Opening with No. 1s
NU had a number of players working with the top defensive units on Day 1, but Santos, Anderson and Thomas Brown were top linebackers for Saturday’s workout. NU’s top safeties were juniors Corey Cooper and Harvey Jackson. The second unit linebackers were Rose, Afalava and Love. Second unit safeties included Charles Jackson and Auburn transfer Jonathan Rose.
On the defensive line, an injury will keep likely starter Thad Randle out for the spring, and several recruits arrive over the summer. On Saturday, Ankrah, sophomores Kevin Williams and Aaron Curry, and redshirt freshman Avery Moss played with the top unit.
On the offensive line, senior Cole Pensick is at center, and junior Jake Cotton will get the first look at left guard.
“We’re going to need him,” Long said.
Cornerback Green to miss spring drills
Pelini confirmed Saturday that cornerback Andrew Green won’t practice this spring, joining Randle as key defensive players on the sidelines.
Green, who started 12 games and registered 50 tackles as a junior, is coming off shoulder surgery.
In one other personnel move, NU has added North Dakota State transfer Sam Hahn to its offensive line. The 6-foot-6, 295-pounder is a redshirt freshman from DeWitt, Neb.
Former Gill player is new Husker G.A.
Saturday’s practice was the first for Kyle Brey as a Husker graduate assistant. The son of Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey is replacing Vince Marrow and working with the Nebraska offense.
Brey, from Granger, Ind., played tight end and fullback for Turner Gill at Buffalo, and then worked one season as a quality control coach for both Gill and Charlie Weis at Kansas.
Brey joins T.J. Hollowell, Joe Ganz and Jake Mandelko as GAs on the Husker staff.