October 27, 2009

Tuesday notebook: Green says he's ready to play

After competing head-to-head with junior Zac Lee for the starting quarterback spot, freshman Cody Green went into Saturday's game with about as good of an idea as you of whether or not he'd be the starter.

Apparently Nebraska's coaching staff didn't give Green any indication of whether he had jumped Lee to take over the job, merely telling him that he had a good chance to see some playing time coming into the game.

"I had no idea," Green said. "I went in there with blinders on. I knew about as much as y'all did."

Obviously, Green ended up not seeing a single snap, as the Lee and the Huskers' offense managed just seven points and tied a school record with eight turnovers. Asked if he was upset that he never even got a chance to show what he could do on Saturday, Green said he understood the coaches' decision to keep Lee in the game.

"Of course I wanted to play, but I can understand that it was great game that Zac managed up and down the field," Green said. "We were pretty much on track for a 500-yard game, so there's nothing we really could have done differently besides quit the turnovers. That's it."

Green said he feels confident that he could make all the plays the Lee could, either with his arm or his legs. The thing that's been holding him back - in his opinion - has been little mistakes that could only be corrected with more experience.

"I do make mistakes, and I see that," he said. "I'm pretty much my worst critic at it. I know that the coaches see the same thing, but as far as just getting out there and learning the playbook, I know the playbook. It's just that - as Coach Watson says, it's the young mistakes that I make, like calling the plays faster in the huddle and stuff like that. If I could cut down on the freshmen mistakes, I think I'd be better off."

As for the rest of the week, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said the quarterbacks would compete the same way they did last week, and the coaching staff would decide if any changes would be made for Saturday's game at the end of the week.

"We did it last week, and we'll do it again this week," Watson said. "We'll look and see how their week pans out and what they can handle."

Green admitted that it was difficult to have to sit and watch the offense continuously turn the ball over on Saturday, but the toughest part was watching the Huskers run the zone-read style of offense that helped make him a high school hero back in Dayton, Texas.

"I sit and just itch because that's what I've been brought up to do all through high school," Green said. "That's really why I'm here. That's why I had close to 2,000 yards rushing and really 3,000 passing too, because we threw (bubble screens) off that play too. We're really starting to turn to that, and it's really starting to drive me crazy, because I really want to get in there and run and show people what I can do."

- Robin Washut

Tuesday practice takes
Turnover relief: After last week's eight-turnover debacle, Nebraska can at least take some relief from looking at the Baylor defense's turnover numbers this season. Through seven games, the Bears rank dead last in the Big 12 Conference and 97th nationally with four fumbles recovered. They're also tied for ninth in the conference with a total of 12 total turnovers gained. They may only be small stats, but considering the Huskers' performance against Iowa State, they carry a bit more weight this week.
Pelini frowns on Williams' rant: Many of you noticed junior offensive lineman Keith Williams get in running back Dontrayevous Robinson's face after the freshman fumbled on a promising drive. Head coach Bo Pelini said he liked the fire Williams showed, but he wants his players to demonstrate more control in those situations and not place the blame on any one individual. "It's a guy trying to be a leader, but you have to do things in the right way and the right time," Pelini said. "You don't point the finger, you point the thumb. It's been addressed. If you do something like that, you have to do it in the right way."
Injury update: Junior defensive end Pierre Allen was back at practice Tuesday after missing Monday with an undisclosed injury, and senior wide receiver Chris Brooks (back) also returned, wearing a green no-contact jersey. Sophomore cornerback Alfonzo Dennard and junior running back Roy Helu both practiced and wore green jerseys as well.
What's on tap next: The Nebraska football team conducted a two-hour full-padded practice on the grass fields North of Memorial Stadium and inside the Hawks indoor facility on Tuesday. NU is scheduled to come back on Wednesday for another two-hour full padded practice.

Pelini said Helu played 'tentatively'

It's no secret that running back Roy Helu continues to battle a series of shoulder problems that started in the fourth quarter of the Missouri game.

During Tuesday's press conference, head coach Bo Pelini was asked if he thought Helu played tentatively because of his shoulder injuries. Unlike Helu's response on Monday, Pelini said he thought the injuries did affect his play. Helu finished with just five carries in the game, and two of them resulted in fumbles.

"Yes I did," Pelini responded when asked if Helu played tentatively. "I expect him to play if he's ok if he puts himself in the football game, period, end of story. If you are hurt, you are hurt. If you are not, then when you walk out there on the field I expect you to give it up and play the way we expect you to play."

Watson said that running backs coach Tim Beck had a "candid conversation" with Helu regarding his injury, in which Beck basically told Helu to be honest about the severity of his injured shoulders and let the coaches know if he truly felt capable of contributing effectively.

After a more than disappointing start last week, Watson said Helu eventually communicated that he couldn't tolerate the pain any longer and essentially took himself out of the game.

"If you're hurt, you're hurt," Watson said. "If you're Ok, you're OK. But we're counting on you if you say you're OK. I think Roy's learned a lesson from that too."

-Sean Callahan

Holt, Gilleylen still on scout team

It looks as if one day of working with the scout team offense wasn't enough for the coaches to get their message through to receivers Menelik Holt and Curenski Gilleylen, as the two players were demoted for the second straight practice on Tuesday.

On Monday, receivers coach Ted Gilmore wouldn't go into detail about the move, but said it was done to reinforce the level of play that is expected of his wide outs.

After the second day on Tuesday, Watson said the decision was also done in part to give some extra reps to the younger receivers in the unit to see what they could bring to the table.

"We're looking at younger guys," Watson said. "We're going to look at some young guys just to see what they can do and see what they can bring to the mix… Just giving younger players some opportunities. Taking a good hard look at younger players and seeing if they can bring their game to more detail and play for us."

- Robin Washut

Ball security a main focus once again for offense

Just like it did to open practice on Monday, Nebraska's offense came out focused on improving its ball security again on Tuesday.

For the first 20 minutes of practice, the running backs, receivers and tight ends once again broke into groups and rotated between three drills focused on controlling the football in a variety of situations.

The four drills the Huskers went through focused primarily on holding onto the ball after making a reception.

The first was securing the ball while making a diving catch, and then it was on to catching the ball just before going through a gauntlet of teammates with blocking pads. After that, they ran a comeback route and had to hold onto the ball while a teammate did his best to try and strip it out.

Pelini said the staff has made it point this week to pay extra attention to ball security and instill an awareness of it within the entire offense.

"We want to continue to emphasize," Pelini said. "You have to put the ball away. You have to play cleaner. We have to get that aspect of it fixed, obviously."

- Robin Washut

Kinnie all for increased competition

In the wake of Gilleylen and Holt's demotion to the scout team the past two days, several of Nebraska's younger and less experienced wide outs got a chance to get the most practice reps they'd seen all season.

One player in particular who has made sure to take full advantage of the opportunity has been sophomore Brandon Kinnie.

Though he actually cracked the starting lineup last weekend when the Huskers opened the game in a four-receiver set, Kinnie said he came into this week's practice intent on proving himself and showing his coaches what he could do.

After getting in a full day of practice as one of the top X receivers behind with redshirt freshman Khiry Cooper, Kinnie said he felt good about his performance, which was a continuation of his steadily improving play overall.

"I had a good week of practice, and I've been trying to work hard ever since I got here trying to learn the playbook and get it down," Kinnie said. "I think Coach Gilmore is starting to gain some trust and see that in me. I do feel that I'm a playmaker, but it's hard to have confidence and swagger if you don't really know what you're doing. I think I'm starting to get that about myself."

What Kinnie has liked the most about the past two practices has been the coaches showing that the receiver position was in fact up for grabs. In his mind, Nebraska's wide outs have lacked some of the intense competition in practice because they all get along so well.

"I think we take it too lightly sometimes," he said. "I mean, yeah we're a corps, yeah we see each other every day, but it's only one ball. I think we need to put more emphasis on that and compete more. I think we kind of sly off of that and not go as hard as that. I think we just need to do that a lot more.

"We compete, we just (are) lackadaisical sometimes. We need to be about it and just going at it every day and just competing for balls. Like I said, it's only one ball."

In his most significant playing time as a Husker, Kinnie had three receptions for 27 yards. While he got the start, Kinnie saw the field less and less as the game went along. Gilmore never gave him a specific reason why he was taken out of the game, but Kinnie had a pretty good idea it was because he missed a key block on a zone read play in the first half.

Combine that with seeing guys like Holt and Gilleylen work with the scout team, and Kinnie didn't take long to realize nothing would be guaranteed for Nebraska's receiving corps.

"If you're not doing your job, there's somebody that will," Kinnie said. "It's just a sign, and it's telling you that if you can't do your job, somebody else will, and that's what they're looking for. I think it's an opportunity for me to seize and show that I can make plays. That's why I'm here."

- Robin Washut

Quick hits

***As would be expected considering the scout team demotions at wide receiver, Watson said Cooper has officially taken over as the starting X receiver.

***In talking about Monday's pre-practice ball security drill session, Green said Nebraska's coaches didn't hold back in making sure the Huskers never have a turnover performance like the one they had last week.

"We pretty much had full blown sweat going and people breathing all hard before practice even started," Green said. "I'm pretty sure the defense was looking over there like, 'What the heck is going on over there?' The whistles were blowing, coaches were yelling. That's what we need. Whenever you have eight turnovers there's not much you can so. You can't say 'Oh, we'll get it next time.' Nah, you've got to work. So we went to work."

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