Published Monday, March 4, 2013 AT 7:47 PM / Updated at 8:31 PM
Spring Football: Practice Quick Hits 3/4
Sam McKewon Omaha World-Herald

The 2nd of Nebraska’s 15 offseason workouts is over; it’ll be the last, most likely, that NU conducts without pads for until the Spring Game warmup. Here are notes:

One surprise participant Saturday on Nebraska’s first-team offense was Elmwood-Murdock sophomore wide receiver Sam Burtch. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound walk-on flashed good speed, especially in downfield routes.

Until redshirt freshmen Jordan Westerkamp and Alonzo Moore develop more this spring camp, offensive coordinator Tim Beck said, look for Burtch to be NU’s No. 4 wide receiver.

“He can play all three positions for us,” Beck said. “So he’s a good guy to fill in as our No. 4. He’s there right now because of his experience.”

Various injuries to Tim Marlowe, Tyler Evans, Steven Osborne and Taariq Allen last year thrust Burtch – who caught 44 passes for 1,038 yards his senior in high school – into a role with the top offense.

“His development has been good,” Beck said.

>>Playing time remains wide open on the defensive line, especially with senior Thad Randle missing all of camp as he recovers from knee surgery. The Huskers run three units in practice, and have 12 defensive linemen available for camp, so each player is getting the full amount of repetitions.

“The opportunity for a guy to show himself couldn’t be any better,” defensive coordinator John Papuchis said. “Each rep is evaluated; all a guy can ask for is an opportunity, and he’s certainly is going to get an opportunity.”

Papuchis said the “attitude and want-to” is good, but the group — which includes freshmen Avery Moss, Greg McMullen and Vincent Valentine and sophomores Kevin Williams and Aaron Curry — remains young.

“There’s going to be a big jump for them — the learning curve is pretty significant — but by the time we get out of spring ball, we’ll have a pretty good idea where we’re at.”

Randle has been trying to help Papuchis and defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski teach younger players some of the finer technique points in practice.

>>>Papuchis likes sophomore David Santos at the middle linebacker spot. Santos came into camp at 226 pounds — which is bigger, Papuchis said, than Will Compton was last year — and he runs well. Junior Zaire Anderson looks good, Papuchis said, after two practices. No telltale problems with knee surgery for a torn ACL he suffered six months ago.

>>>Offensive coordinator Tim Beck was pretty vague on how NU’s working on turnovers, other than saying the team’s “going back to basics.” Don’t look for the Husker offense to do a ton of high-tempo stuff, if only to help out a young defense install its scheme.

>>>Beck said young tight ends Sam Cotton and Trey Foster have potential, but “they’re swimming in it.” Beck said senior Jake Long has done well through two practices.

>>>Defensive backs coach Terry Joseph was the last assistant off the field, working late with a number of young players — including safeties DJ Singleton and Charles Jackson — on coverage concepts well after some of the more experienced safeties had gone in for the night.

“It can be intimidating — being in a room with 28 guys — when a lot of them have played and they know the routine, and when you get in there, you can kind of freeze up,” Joseph said. “So it’s just to try to get them out here alone to where it’s not a crowded meeting room and they get some individual attention. We’ll have to do that a lot this spring.”

>>>Joseph said he turned down three job offers this winter to stay at Nebraska. He’s now on the hunt, he said, for “3-4 cornerbacks” in the 2014 recruiting class, evaluating and offering those high school players at a rapid clip so he can then visit them starting April 15.

“It’s a system where you can come and play in a NFL-type system and if you do well, you can play in the NFL. It’s attractive spot. We just got to get out there and chase them with the rest of the big guys, and hopefully we can pull a few in. I’m confident about it and we’re on some good guys early.”

>>>Right now, Joseph said, juniors Corey Cooper and Harvey Jackson are NU’s No. 1 safeties. But that situation appears quite fluid.

“We got a lot of young guys who are chomping at the bit to get in there,” Joseph said. “Every single day, you gotta hold on to the job…the young guys, they’re athletic and the move well, but to get in a system like this and play consistent, you’ve got to be comfortable.”

>>A CBS Sports college football writer was at practice to talk to coach Bo Pelini, Beck and Martinez.

About Sam McKewon

Sam McKewon covers Nebraska football for The World-Herald. Got a tip, question or rant? Good. Email him at And follow him on Twitter at @swmckewonOWH. And call him at 402.219.3790.