True freshman receiver Jordan Westerkamp has emerged as a potential contributor for Nebraska during his short time with the Huskers. But it may not be in his best interest to play this fall, NU coach Bo Pelini said Thursday.
Pelini stressed that no decision has been made on the status of Westerkamp, a 5-foot-10, 200-pounder who’s earned praise this month for his reliability as a pass-catcher.
The dilemma, according to Pelini: “Sometimes you have to play a guy out of necessity. Other times you have a guy who, you look at and say, ‘Yeah, he could play now, but how much would he benefit down the line?’ What you don’t want to do is end up after four years, both as a coach and a player, is saying, ‘I wish I would have had that fifth year.’”
Redshirt freshman Taariq Allen was in a similar spot last year. He could have played, but didn’t. The result?
“(Allen) is a heck of a lot more prepared physically, mentally, maturity wise to help us right now,” Pelini said.
So we’ll have to wait on Westerkamp. For a few weeks, Pelini said.
He did confirm Thursday that three true freshmen — defensive end Avery Moss, defensive tackle Aaron Curry and running back Imani Cross — are expected to make their debuts. There will likely be others (Charles Jackson and Andy Janovich).
To play or redshirt a true freshman? Pelini said it’s never a decision he makes on his own.
“You have to balance that whole thing,” Pelini said. “It’s not just about us and our program, it’s about that kid individually and what’s in his best long-term interest.”
Below are other noteworthy items to pass along from Pelini’s five-minute conversation with reporters after Thursday’s practice…
>> Pelini made it pretty clear that he’s unsure what kinds of looks to expect from the Southern Miss offense. So the Husker defense has worked on everything. And the players responded well this week, Pelini said. He expects to make lots of adjustments Saturday. But, as he puts it, “at the end of the day, it’s about playing hard, flying to the football and playing with an attitude. I think our guys understand that.”
>> Senior Justin Jackson will “most likely” start at center for Nebraska on Saturday, Pelini said.
>> Sophomore Corey Cooper has “done a good job” as a dime back so far, Pelini said. Junior Zaire Anderson and senior Jase Dean are the other two players who’ve been taking reps at that spot lately.
>> Asked specifically about Moss, the true freshman D-end, Pelini said this: “I think he’s gonna be special.”
>> Pelini spoke pretty confidently about his offensive line and the depth that’s been developed during fall camp. But considering the group’s inexperience, he will be watching closely to see how those players react on Saturday. “There’s one thing about them performing in practice,” Pelini said. “It’s how they’re going to be when they get out there in front of 85,000.”
>> There are no injury concerns at this time, according to Pelini.
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>> Audio: Listen to Bo Pelini’s post-practice session with the media (Length: 3 minutes, 41 seconds):