Sophomore Ameer Abdullah is in great physical shape, but coach Ron Brown said his mental toughness is what has allowed him to persevere through the rigors of Big Ten play as NU’s top I-back.
Abdullah isn’t fully healthy, but you wouldn’t know it during the last three weeks — when he’s carried the ball 65 total times, averaging 4.8 yards per attempt. He’s passed the century mark in all three games (against Northwestern, Michigan and Michigan State).
Brown’s been impressed with Abdullah’s character.
“He’s been tremendous,” Brown said. “I’ve appreciated his attitude.”
As Rex Burkhead continues to work back to full strength after suffering a knee injury, Abdullah’s playing time isn’t expect to decrease one bit. And that’s OK, according to Brown. Abdullah can handle it.
“He’s a tough little guy,” Brown said.
Other practice notes from Wednesday…
>> Here’s a quick — but telling — quote from Brown about Burkhead’s efforts to get healthy again: “He loves hard work. He almost wants to rehab.” Despite knowing he’d be sidelined, Burkhead’s gone out of his way to study film each of the past few weeks, Brown said.
>> What does Brown tell his young running backs about playing time? Something like this: “There are going to be some games where some of you don’t play. Because of the style of game that it is. Not because of your ability. … If the playing time thing’s an issue with you, then win the position, hands down, every single play, without a doubt, you’re the guy – and we would be absolutely crazy not to have you in.”
>> Redshirt freshman David Santos is expected to see some playing time at weakside linebacker in Nebraska’s 4-3 base defense, according to assistant coach Ross Els. That’s normally Alonzo Whaley’s spot. Santos has been contributing mostly in the nickel formation, but should get action behind Whaley against the pro-style offense of Penn State.
>> Els, who oversees NU’s special teams, described Penn State’s kicking game units as “sound” — a lot like Nebraska’s, Els said. “We’re not great, we’re not dynamic, but we’re sound. And I think they’re the same way.”
>> Els said sophomore Jamal Turner is working as the third-string punt returner behind Abdullah and Tim Marlowe. But Turner could be called on pretty quickly Saturday if Abdullah’s workload at I-back gets to be too much and Marlowe (shoulder) isn’t healthy enough to go.