LINCOLN — Nebraska linebacker David Santos reached up and touched the scar on his forehead Friday morning as he pondered the ways he's matured in the month since a publicized offseason incident sent him to the hospital.
Some “silly” events led to an “unfortunate” situation, Santos said. A fight broke out, Santos jumped in and he ended up being the guy whom true freshman Ernest Suttles hit with a bottle June 21, according to a police report. Santos need stitches.
Suttles, cited on suspicion of third-degree assault, was dismissed from the program. Redshirt freshman Thomas Brown broke team rules that night and was also kicked off the team.
Santos was left with a bump and a scar just below the hairline — but that, he insists, is the only lasting repercussion from a night he and the Huskers have put behind them.
“What I learned from that is, stuff happens,” Santos said. “Stuff happens to regular people and stuff happens to us. You've just got to learn from it and move on, and that's what we've done.”
It hasn't compromised Santos' ability to lead a young defense, he said. The expected starter at middle linebacker, a veteran by default on a unit without many seasoned players, was assured by his teammates quickly after the altercation that he didn't need to worry about losing credibility.
Senior defensive end Jason Ankrah said the entire squad decided dismissals were in order after the fight. Ankrah didn't name anyone specifically Friday, but indicated that the team's in a better place.
“One of the players, he had previous incidents of starting things. That night was the last straw for him,” Ankrah said. “Unfortunately, he brought along another person with him. It just went down the wrong way. We all know what to do. We know right from wrong. We're moving on.”
Santos moved more quickly than anyone else. He doesn't have time to waste.
He's busy learning a new position, while trying to make sure the rest of the linebackers can keep pace.
Santos was an off-and-on contributor at weakside linebacker in 13 games last year. His confidence grew toward the end of the season, and the coaches began using him more consistently against spread-first teams. There were still plenty of mistakes.
But the staff saw the potential. Santos moved to middle linebacker in the spring at the request of the coaches — where he'd practiced as a true freshman in 2011, back when he said concepts and strategies went “just right over my head.”
He's adjusting now.
“I'm just getting more and more comfortable,” he said. “I'm looking forward to getting into the season, when the bullets start flying, seeing what's what.”
He's not thrilled, however, to be pressing on without fellow middle linebacker Trevor Roach, who is out for the year with a foot injury. Santos' co-chair of the linebacker room used to support and supplement his attempts to lead.
Offseason shoulder surgery kept Santos from participating in workouts for most of the summer, though that admittedly helped him adjust as a teacher and mentor as he barked out advice from the sideline. It's beginning to become more natural for him, he said.
“It's kind of hard because I'm still trying to get better in the game, and then I've got to help these young guys move along,” he said. “We've got a bunch of young guys that have a lot of potential. I'm excited to see them play.”
Junior Zaire Anderson had knee surgery but will be ready to play after receiving a medical hardship last year. Redshirt freshmen Jared Afalava and Michael Rose are expected to compete for jobs. True freshmen Josh Banderas and Courtney Love might be in the mix, too.
They'll all be looking toward Santos, who'll also hold the important responsibility of relaying last-second adjustments to the defense based on presnap movement from the offense. He'll have a significant run-stopping role, too. There could be one-on-one matchups with running backs in space, and designed blitzes right up the middle. Plenty more, too.
“It's all about expanding your knowledge and expanding your game,” Santos said. “It's not going to hurt me just to be at another position. That can better you as a person and a player.”
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