Ameer Abdullah is finally Nebraska's top I-back in preseason camp. He has the most experience of any Husker ball carrier now that Rex Burkhead has moved on to the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals.
Abdullah, a 5-foot-9, 190-pound junior, said he is optimistic about what's ahead for Nebraska when the Huskers kick off their schedule with a home game Aug. 31 against Wyoming.
Q: What's different about this camp than others you've been through in Lincoln?
A: Every year it's a little different. There's new things to learn, new people. We're always trying to get better. We're always trying to help our teammates get better. We're anxious to get better, and that's what makes this team special.
Q: What are you doing different to get better, either on or off the field?
A: We're studious athletes, so it's just always about competing at a high level.
Q: Are you taking a different approach this year since you're viewed coming in as “the guy” at running back and Rex Burkhead isn't here anymore?
A: No, I don't take a different approach. I'm taking this year the same as I did last year. I'm always looking to get better, and I'm not changing my mind just because Rex is gone or any circumstance. I always want to compete at a high level, and I'm going to continue to do that.
Q: How much motivation do you get from having so many other running backs competing for playing time?
A: The running back spot at Nebraska is always going to be competitive. That's what I love about it here. Guys who are hungry, want to play, want to compete at a high level, it keeps the fire under me and those guys as well.
Q: What do you tell the younger guys about what it takes?
A: They understand. Coach (Ron) Brown, he tells them how important it is to carry the rock for Nebraska, and they knew before they got here how important it is, how special it is. Those guys know.
Q: Is it a little different having two of your coaches — Tim Beck with his jaw and Brown with his knee — coming off surgery?
A: Our coaches are getting old, man. Everybody's having surgery and stuff (laughs). Nah, I'm just joking. It was a surprise. I didn't know they were having surgery until I got back.
Q: Where does the issue of turnovers rank during camp when you guys look at points of emphasis?
A: Turnovers are always No. 1, no matter what the circumstance. We never want to cough the ball up. We always emphasize that. That's the first thing we're always focused on before the ball is even snapped.