Twenty minutes after practice had ended Monday, at the far end of the Hawks Championship Center, Nebraska defensive backs coach Terry Joseph was spending his one-year anniversary at NU working overtime with some of his young safeties, including Charles Jackson, Jonathan Rose and D.J. Singleton.
The reason? Joseph said some of the younger players can feel “intimidated” in a crowded meeting room of 28 guys — many of whom have started for the Huskers — so we wanted to get them some space away from the seniors to learn and absorb the defense.
“We’ll have to do that a lot this spring,” Joseph told reporters afterward.
The second-year coach has experience at corner, inexperience at safety and more than his share of job security. Why? Because Joseph said he turned down three job offers in the offseason to stay at NU with coach Bo Pelini.
“Getting to work for Bo at a place like Nebraska — with the guys we’re bringing back — played a lot into (returning),” Joseph said. “We’re going to try to win as many games as we can.”
And Joseph — a top 50 recruiter according to 247Sports — is trying to offer as many top-flight cornerbacks as possible for the 2014 class. NU will lose four senior corners — including starters Ciante Evans, Stanley Jean-Baptise and Andrew Green — after this year, so Joseph plans to sign “three to four” in the next class.
According to Rivals, NU has already offered 16 corners and several more athletes that could play corner. Joseph said Nebraska needs to “evaluate,” “offer” and “start the relationship” with players early “to get in the game” for April 15, when he can start making visits to the schools.
“That’s been my main priority every day,” Joseph said. “To watch who we deem to be the top four to five guys and get offers out to them no matter where they are in America so we can judge the interest.”
Joseph said he’ll make Nebraska’s recruiting pitch a strong one.
“It’s a system where you can come and play in an NFL-type system and if you do well, you can play in the NFL,” Joseph said. “It’s an attractive spot. We just got to get out there and chase them with the rest of the big guys, and hopefully we can pull a few in. I’m confident about it and we’re on some good guys early.”
Cooper and Jackson stepping up at safety
For now, Joseph said, juniors Corey Cooper and Harvey Jackson are NU’s No. 1 safeties. But that situation appears quite fluid.
“We got a lot of young guys who are chomping at the bit to get in there,” Joseph said. “Every single day, you gotta hold on to the job … the young guys, they’re athletic and they move well, but to get in a system like this and play consistent, you’ve got to be comfortable.”
At corner, Joseph said Jean-Baptiste has been particularly strong during the first two workouts.
“His talent’s through the ceiling,” Joseph said. “He has some physical gifts that you don’t get with a lot of corners. He’s done well. His mind’s working a little bit slower, which is allowing his feet to work faster. As a coach, that’s what you want ... the good thing for Stanley is that we’ve got so many young guys on defense that we probably cut back the install to make sure the D-line and linebackers can grasp it.”
Coaches happy with Burtch’s development
One surprise participant Saturday on Nebraska’s first-team offense was Elmwood-Murdock sophomore wide receiver Sam Burtch. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound walk-on flashed good speed, especially in downfield routes.
Until redshirt freshmen Jordan Westerkamp and Alonzo Moore develop more this spring camp, offensive coordinator Tim Beck said, look for Burtch to be NU’s No. 4 wide receiver.
“He can play all three positions for us,” Beck said. “So he’s a good guy to fill in as our No. 4. He’s there right now because of his experience.”
Various injuries to Tim Marlowe, Tyler Evans, Steven Osborne and Taariq Allen last year thrust Burtch — who caught 44 passes for 1,038 yards his senior year in high school — into a role with the top offense.
“His development has been good,” Beck said.
Beck said Westerkamp and Moore — four-star recruits in the 2012 class — have had strong starts to camp. In terms of skill-set, Moore, a 6-foot-2, 170-pounder, is a bit of a cross between starters Jamal Turner and Kenny Bell, Beck said.
“He’s got talent,” Beck said. “He just has to apply it and learn the offense. I wouldn’t expect him to know the whole thing in two days. He’s really quick-twitch and he’s really fast with the ball.”
Anderson’s knee holding up well
So far so good for Nebraska linebacker Zaire Anderson on his surgically repaired right knee.
Anderson said the knee hasn’t been a hindrance at all through the Huskers’ first two spring practices. NU assistant coach Ross Els said Anderson also appears to have full trust in it as he goes through drills.
“He’s not favoring it or anything like that,” Els said. “He’s just going.”
Els said Anderson looked good on Saturday, but started to show a little fatigue toward the end of Monday’s practice. Els said the rehab through the winter likely affected his conditioning.
Anderson suffered a torn ACL last September in practice and actually played with it the following Saturday. After season-ending surgery, the junior college transfer started looking ahead to 2013.
One other change for Anderson is that he now goes 225 pounds after coming in last summer at 203. Eventually he thinks he could play at 235.
“I think I can get a little heavier,” he said. “I just don’t want to lose my speed.”
>> Papuchis said he liked sophomore David Santos at the middle linebacker spot because he’s up to 226 pounds — bigger than Will Compton last year — and can run well.
>> True freshman linebacker Courtney Love is working with the No. 2 unit.
>> A reporter from CBS Sports attended practice to talk to Pelini, Beck and quarterback Taylor Martinez.
— Sam McKewon and Rich Kaipust