In the short amount of time since New Year’s Day, Nebraska lost Rex Burkhead to graduation, Braylon Heard to an imminent transfer and Ameer Abdullah to a minor knee injury.
So that leaves Imani Cross and who else at I-back?
Stepping up so far, NU assistant coach Ron Brown said, have been walk-ons King Frazier and Graham Nabity.
Brown said Monday “I like what I’ve seen so far” from the two redshirt freshmen — Frazier from Lee’s Summit, Mo., and Nabity from Elkhorn.
“We’ve got to have them,” Brown said. “We don’t have a lot of numbers at that I-back spot. We’ll start to breathe a little bit better when we get back Jordan Nelson (from a leg injury) and when we get those freshmen coming in the fall (Adam Taylor and Terrell Newby).”
Brown said Frazier and Nabity, like Cross, have some size but can move. Frazier is listed at 6-feet and 220 pounds.
“Those two guys are showing up,” Brown said. “They’re good players. They could play at a lot of places.”
Newest Cotton blends well at tight end
Nebraska also is looking for help at tight end, where it is unproven behind senior Jake Long. NU offensive coordinator Tim Beck said the backup maybe pouncing most on the opportunity right now is redshirt freshman Sam Cotton.
“He’s just a good football player,” Beck said. “He plays really hard, he’s got good hands, he runs well. He’s got to get bigger and stronger still — I mean, he’s a freshman — but I like where he’s at right now at this point in his career and where he’ll be.”
Cotton is the younger brother of NU offensive guard Jake Cotton and former Husker tight end Ben Cotton. He also is being coached by his father now that assistant coach Barney Cotton has taken over the tight ends.
Beck said walk-ons Trey Foster and Jared Blum also have done well. David Sutton has been nagged this spring by injury.
Garrison looking for offensive line depth
Offensive line coach John Garrison used a portion of the Huskers’ break to re-examine the offensive line’s first two weeks of spring practice, and a clear goal surfaced from that self-critique.
He wants to focus more on developing depth.
Nebraska has several experienced players returning on its offensive line (five guys return from the seven-man rotation that NU used for much of last season). But behind that veteran unit?
There are concerns, Garrison admitted.
“That second and third group, they’ve got to pick it up and get going,” Garrison said. “They’re one play away from being the guy. That’s what they’ve got to realize and push toward.”
Pensick will practice at center and guard
The return of junior center Mark Pelini allowed senior Cole Pensick to again play both center and guard at practice Monday, Garrison said.
Pelini, who had an injury that kept him out of a few practices earlier this month, took some reps with the first-team offense Monday. Pensick then moved to guard, where he rotated in as a regular reserve last season.
“To be able to move Pensick around helps a lot,” Garrison said. “He’s a very versatile guy. He’s done a great job at center for us, but it’s good to have Mark back.”
Also returning Monday from a minor injury was redshirt freshman defensive end Avery Moss, who also missed some time before the break.
— Rich Kaipust, Jon Nyatawa