Published Thursday, August 15, 2013 AT 10:23 PM / Updated at 11:36 PM
Practice Report Aug. 15: Freshmen still on the move
Sam McKewon Omaha World-Herald

Just returned from Nebraska’s Thursday night workout, which was held inside Memorial Stadium on the new FieldTurf. The expanded East Stadium will be thoroughly intimidating, I can report, in a night setting. Defensive coordinator John Papuchis said the turf was fine — it just needs a few more practices on it to pack the rubber/cork pellets better.

Just assistant coaches tonight. Here’s some quick notes:

>> Papuchis would not comment on whether Randy Gregory or Greg McMullen practiced Thursday, but they walked off the field without pads on.

>> Offensive coordinator Tim Beck said he’s involved the offensive linemen and the defense in his effort to improve the skill players’ ball security. If any Husker player sees an offensive player not securing the ball well enough, their job is to tell the ball carrier about it right then and there.

Beck said the added scrutiny from offensive linemen has an effect.

“They’re the ones grunting, making the holes for them and doing the dirty hard work,” Beck said. “They hate to see the ball on the ground.”

>> True freshman running backs Terrell Newby and Adam Taylor continue to progress, Beck said. He’s not revealing too much about those two (which may mean Beck really likes what they could do). Taylor’s further along, Beck said, than Newby in pass protection. When Beck was asked if he’d consider playing them in a game, his answer: “Absolutely.”

“They’re kinda hard to describe them, but they bring energy,” Beck said. “They’re different styles of runners, but they’re both extremely effective … they work out hard, they play hard, and they run hard.”

>> At linebacker, sophomore David Santos and true freshman Josh Banderas are working at the Mike, while redshirt freshman Michael Rose is at the Will spot behind junior Zaire Anderson. At Buck, redshirt freshman Jared Afalava and true freshman Nate Gerry appear to be the top guys. Another freshman, Courtney Love, is practicing but slightly slowed by injury.

>> In the absence of the top tight end, Jake Long, the next three getting the most reps, offensive coordinator Tim Beck said, were sophomore David Sutton, redshirt freshman walk-on Trey Foster and true freshman Cethan Carter.

Of the three, Foster is the most interesting story. He played defensive end at Lincoln Southeast, switched to tight end upon his arrival at NU, and is now apparently working ahead of Sam Cotton, his teammate at Southeast who’s the scholarship tight end. Beck didn’t mention Cotton’s name when talking about top tight ends. Cotton didn’t appear to practice Thursday, but he hasn’t missed a ton of camp thus far. Foster’s brother, D.J. Foster, is a 2014 offensive line commit.

“He’s done a really good job of understanding where he’s supposed to be, what he’s supposed to be doing,” Beck said. “He’s been catching the ball really well for us, and he’s done a nice job blocking.”

>> Defensive coordinator John Papuchis said senior walk-on defensive tackle Brodrick Nickens is a “physical guy” who can “push the pocket” as a pass rusher.

“He’s strong and he eats space in the middle,” Papuchis said.

Nickens is among a logjam of defensive linemen vying for time alongside Thad Randle, who seems more and more to be one of the likely starters inside. Papuchis praised Randle’s play in camp again Thursday night.

>> The competition between kickers Mauro Bondi and Pat Smith is “dead even,” according to linebackers coach/special teams coordinator Ross Els. Bondi has responded well to the arrival of Smith, a senior walk-on from Western Illinois that some have already handed the job.

“When Brett Maher was done, (Bondi’s) attitude was a lot more serious,” Els said. “He understood the importance of his role, and bringing in Pat has just impacted that a little bit more.”

>> Beck’s rather fond of backup quarterback Ron Kellogg III, who helps keep the quarterback room — especially starter Taylor Martinez — loose, while keeping Beck sharp.

“He’s the ultimate backup quarterback,” Beck said. “Ultimate. Picture a backup quarterback. Sits in the meeting room with coffee, maybe a donut, may not play much, and I’ll tell you: He knows the offense. He’ll say ‘Hey, coach, how about if we did this and did this? Why don’t we put the protection over there?’ And I’ll say: ‘That’s pretty good Ron.’ He’s sharp. He knows what’s going on. He’s really good to have in there.”

Video: NU offensive coordinator Tim Beck

About Sam McKewon

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