In his monthly “Sports Nightly” radio show appearance Wednesday night, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini talked for an hour about his team’s depth and true freshmen who could potentially contribute early. Remember: Ten days remain before kickoff vs. Southern Mississippi, so stuff can change. But Pelini gave a decent snapshot.
Here are highlights:
>>At defensive tackle, the top three are senior Baker Steinkuhler, sophomore Chase Rome and junior Thad Randle, whom Pelini said is “getting healthier” after missing parts of fall camp. True freshman Aaron Curry and redshirt freshman Kevin Williams are battling in the fourth and fifth spots.
>>At end, the top three remains seniors Cameron Meredith and Eric Martin and junior Jason Ankrah. True freshman Avery Moss and senior Joe Carter battle for that No. 4 spot.
>>At linebacker, the status quo: Seniors Will Compton, Sean Fisher and Alonzo Whaley are the top three. Redshirt freshman David Santos has had a strong camp, Pelini said, while junior-college transfer Zaire Anderson is work at Will (behind Whaley) and in the dime backer spot. The dime responsibilities were Dejon Gomes’ domain in 2009 and 2010.
>>Whaley, Santos and sophomore Corey Cooper are working the dime spot, as well.
>>The nickel back spot is junior Ciante Evans, followed by true freshman Charles Jackson, whom Pelini praised for his raw physical ability.
“He’s explosive,” Pelini said. “The high end on him is really, really high. He moves so easy.”
>>At safety, senior Daimion Stafford has all but locked down one spot, while senior P.J. Smith and sophomore Harvey Jackson battle for the other.
>>Corner remains wide open, although Pelini hinted junior Andrew Green will “probably” be one of the starters. Junior college transfer Mo Seisay has been slowed by an injury.
To the offense.
>>Quarterback Taylor Martinez has grown as a game manager, “his mechanics look good” and is “very confident in how to use the offense.”
“I really like where he is right now, if he can eliminate that bonehead throw every now and then, which is going to happen in camp,” Pelini said. “You realize that’s going to happen sometimes, because we’re just throwing a lot of different coverages at him. He sees new things almost every day in training camp. That’s a challenge.”
>>True freshman running back Imani Cross should play.
“I don’t envision redshirting him,” Pelini said.
Cross has impressed coaches, Pelini said, not only with his physical ability, but his work ethic and attention to detail early in camp.
“He’s turned out to be faster, more elusive and athletic than we imagined he would be at this point in his career,” Pelini said. Cross could play some special teams, too.
>>Wide receiver is another ongoing battle, but Pelini listed junior Qunicy Enunwa, sophomores Kenny Bell and Jamal Turner and senior Tim Marlowe as four guys having good camps. Redshirt freshman Taariq Allen was having a good camp until a hip injury sidelined him for several practices. Pelini said Tyler Evans has improved since last year, as well.
>>Along the offensive line, Pelini said battles continue, but junior Cole Pensick is working some at guard because sophomore Jake Cotton sustained a concussion. At tackle, Pelini said he feels good about his top three – juniors Jeremiah Sirles, Andrew Rodriguez and Brent Qvale – with Sirles “playing his “best football.”
>>Wide receiver Tyler Evans is the backup holder behind Jase Dean.
>>Pelini said NU’s had fewer “soft-tissue injuries” – like hamstring pulls – because of a tough summer conditioning regimen.
>>Pelini praised the freshman group as a whole, calling it “mature” and able to adjust to the team’s goals and culture quickly.