Jamal Turner hit his stride down the stretch last year, catching 14 passes as Nebraska closed the regular season with a six-game winning streak and then eight more in the Huskers’ appearances in the Big Ten championship game and Capital One Bowl.
Now that he believes his hamstring problem is behind him, the junior receiver hopes he’s ready to do the same in 2013.
“I’m just excited to play my best,” Turner said Tuesday. “I know I will. I will play a lot better the second half of the season.”
Even with 10 of his 11 receptions in the Huskers’ first three games this season, Turner was still nagged by the hamstring that he first injured in preseason practice. He then felt it pop in the first half against Illinois on Oct. 5 and hardly played the following game at Purdue.
This past bye week turned out to be “perfect timing,” allowing Turner to get some rest and spend time in the training room. He expects to be his old self Saturday against Minnesota, especially after catching six passes for 83 yards against the Gophers a year ago.
“I get to play full speed now,” he said. “And how they play defensively, this could be a big week for me.”
Turner tried to start practices the last few weeks, but said they’d usually end the same way.
“I’d do a few runs and kind of see how I feel, and they’d be like, ‘You’re done,’ ” he said.
“I’m high spirits in practice,” he said. “I’m laughing, running around, playing. I’m just happy to be back out there. You forget how much you love the game when you’re not playing, when an injury takes you from the game.”
Jordan Westerkamp replaced Turner as the Huskers’ slot receiver at Purdue and caught a career-high three passes for 53 yards. Turner said he likes watching the redshirt freshman play.
“We want that competition in the room,” Turner said. “It’s just going to make me play harder.”