LINCOLN — How bad was wide receiver depth on Saturday?
Like this: Offensive coordinator Tim Beck said Nebraska was trying to draw up routes for converted cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste — a former wide receiver — to run during the two-minute drill. Most of the receivers NU had on the field — Quincy Enunwa, Jordan Westerkamp, Alonzo Moore and Sam Burtch — were pretty exhausted.
“We didn't have anybody left,” Beck said.
Moore, Beck said, was running plays he hadn't mastered yet.
“That's viable,” Beck said. “Coach (Rich) Fisher was moving guys all over the place. Moore's tapping out because he's tired, (Fisher) is throwing the dude out there. ... Ronnie (Kellogg) was like 'Coach, I'm back there waiting for them,' and I said 'Ronnie, they were playing nonstop for 10 straight routes.' We had one sub.”
Overall, Beck said, the receivers managed well in the absence of Bell and Turner. Another receiver who'd played snaps for the Huskers, Tyler Wullenwaber, announced last week that he was giving up football because of injuries.
“We had some communication errors with some young wideouts,” Beck said. “A bust here and there. Miscommunication between the receiver and quarterback on a route. And it hurt us a couple times. But you get that ... pictures are changing on them. They're playing what they see. You might be four, five yards short. He turned in instead of turning out. It's kinda what we did our first year when our passing game was just a hair off. When we put it in, there's a lot of route-reading and recognition. We're off a little bit.”
Big House challenge
The thought of increased playing time at a historic venue is more than enough to motivate Nebraska's inexperienced linebackers.
But freshman Josh Banderas said their challenge is to prepare the same way they always do.
“You can't really overlook any team or treat them any differently,” he said.
The coaches are stressing that. The players are buying in, certainly.
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Then again, though, there's human nature. And the natural response to playing in the Big House, especially for a competitive guy like Banderas, is a little different from his reaction to visiting most road venues.
“It's going to be pretty awesome,” Banderas said. “The biggest college stadium, 110,000 people, screaming, and they're all against you? It's going to be an awesome experience to see it full.”
Staying focused is the key, though, Banderas said. He expects Michigan to attack Nebraska in similar fashion to the way Minnesota designed its game plan two weeks ago. The Gophers, incorporating some pre-snap movement, ran downhill repeatedly against NU in a 34-23 win.
It means three linebackers could be on the field a lot Saturday, Banderas said.
With redshirt freshman Jared Afalava not available for undisclosed reasons this week, sophomore David Santos has taken some practice reps with freshman Nathan Gerry at strongside linebacker. Santos is also working on the weakside with junior Zaire Anderson.
As for Banderas, he's not yet sure how the in-game snaps will be distributed between him and redshirt freshman Michael Rose at middle linebacker. Banderas is doing everything he can to get mentally ready for Saturday, though.
“Focus is the key word,” he said. “You have to focus on your job. If you just look at what you're supposed to look at, the motions and all the switching sides, it doesn't affect you at all.”
Rodriguez working at guard
Nebraska is getting offensive tackle Andrew Rodriguez some work at guard after it lost starters Spencer Long and Jake Cotton to knee injuries in recent weeks.
Rodriguez played guard as a sophomore before moving into the tackle rotation last season.
“So it's not like he's never been there,” Beck said. “He looked comfortable at it today.”
After Cotton sprained his MCL against Northwestern, the Huskers moved Mike Moudy from right guard to left guard and took Cole Pensick from center to right guard. Beck was not specific about the plans this week with any of the three.
“We just keep playing around with different things right now, just different combinations,” Beck said.
Jake Long plans to play
Senior tight end Jake Long returned to practice Tuesday and said it went well as he tested the hamstring injury that has kept him out of the last three games.
Long had caught five passes for 78 yards before pulling the hamstring Oct. 5 against Illinois. He already had missed much of preseason practice because of a knee problem.
Long said the plan is to play Saturday at Michigan. NU has relied on freshmen Cethan Carter and Sam Cotton in his absence.
“I think I'll be good to go,” Long said. “If all goes well this week, I'm gonna go.”
Salute for a special senior
Nebraska specialist and defensive back Wil Richards will miss the rest of the season with a broken ankle. The senior from Lee's Summit, Mo., was hurt Saturday on a kickoff return.
“You feel for that man who came in here and busted his butt and has fought his way onto the field,” Pelini said. “You hate to see it end that way for him.”
RB recruit picks Spartans
Cross Madre London off of Nebraska's 2014 recruiting list.
The running back from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., on Monday selected Michigan State over the Huskers, Illinois and Wisconsin. London, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound three-star prospect according to all major recruiting services, visited Lincoln in September. At the time, NU looked like the front-runner. A trip to East Lansing changed his mind.
London is averaging 8 yards per carry this season for St. Thomas Aquinas High School, which produced current Cincinnati Bengals rookie Giovani Bernard.
Nebraska still appears to be looking for another running back to add to its 2014 class.
Rivals reported Monday that the Huskers may be interested in offering Wichita (Kan.) running back Deron Thompson. Thompson has offers to Minnesota and Kansas State, among other schools. Another target, four-star running back Kalen Ballage of Falcon, Colo., could visit after his high school season. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Ballage's older brother, Keenen, played at Hastings College.
Lewis may face 2nd charge
The Boulder (Colo.) Daily Camera reported Tuesday that prosecutors are seeking a second felony charge on Alex Lewis, the former Colorado football player accused of beating up an Air Force Academy cadet May 11 just hours after announcing his transfer to Nebraska. Lewis is attending classes at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
The second charge, the Daily Camera reports, would be second-degree felony assault with a deadly weapon: Lewis' fists. Lewis is accused of punching a student near the University of Colorado's campus and slamming his head into a sidewalk and a metal kiosk during a fight.
Lewis in early October pleaded not guilty to the original charge of felony assault.
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