LINCOLN — Nebraska appears to be doing everything it can to find a spot for Nate Gerry. The true freshman is a linebacker now.
Gerry, listed at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, could still play some defensive back, but he's now taking practice reps at weakside and strongside linebacker.
He's already played the dime back position, an inside cornerback spot when Nebraska puts six defensive backs on the field, and coach Bo Pelini said Gerry could still play safety.
But there's depth at cornerback and improvement at safety. So Gerry, who set the state record in South Dakota by finishing the 100 meters in 10.3 seconds this spring, is a linebacker.
“He can do a lot of different things to help our football team,” Pelini said.
Redshirt freshman Jared Afalava and junior Austin Williams are also working at the strongside spot. True freshman Josh Banderas is at middle linebacker.
Pelini indicated that there is plenty of time for jobs to be earned.
But one thing senior Ciante Evans said that sticks out about Gerry is his commitment to the mental side of the game. There are certainly moments when Gerry gets overwhelmed, Evans said. But the newcomer is always working, apparently.
“He always has that ability-to-learn mindset,” Evans said. “He always wants to learn. He always wants to study. He's willing to put in extra time, and with a young guy you can't really teach that.”
Abdullah, others in the mix for kick, punt return duties
Nebraska's kick and punt returners are focusing on the fundamentals at this point in camp, so no spot's been secured yet, Pelini said.
But the staff's taking notes.
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Juniors Ameer Abdullah, Kenny Bell and Jamal Turner, freshman Terrell Newby and redshirt freshman Alonzo Moore are among the players working at the return positions. It remains to be seen how much work Abdullah will get, assuming he's the No. 1 I-back, Pelini said.
Turner, meanwhile, is ready to step in.
“I feel like I could help the team in that position,” he said. “All I could do is stay humble, stay hungry, and fight for the job.”
Cross: Huskers 'more cautious' regarding fumbles
Nebraska I-back Imani Cross said Husker skill players have been “more cautious” about how they carry the ball to help erase fumbles that often stalled the offense in 2012. NU led the nation in lost fumbles with 22.
But Cross was quick to point out Nebraska skill players aren't overthinking the ball security issue.
“When you're carrying the ball you don't think, 'I've got to lock the rock,' ” Cross said. “It's a habit. We're all creatures of habit, so whatever you do every day, every time you touch the ball, that's how you're going to do it in the game. You shouldn't overthink it. Very instinctive.”
Long day of work for Abdullah and company
Abdullah said Tuesday night after practice that he probably wouldn't leave the facility until after 10:30. And he planned to be back by 6 a.m. Wednesday.
That doesn't leave much time for recovery.
But he's used to it. The entire team is dealing with the same schedule. He said the Huskers trained this way during the offseason.
“We've just got to make sure we bring energy in the morning and make sure we get our work done,” Abdullah said.
Nebraska's set to practice at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. They have morning practices Wednesday and Friday.
Memphis coach: Nebraska spoke highly of Suttles
Memphis coach Justin Fuente told a newspaper that he checked with two Nebraska assistant coaches and received a letter of recommendation from a Husker associate athletic director before deciding to accept former NU recruit Ernest Suttles into his football program.
Suttles, who signed with Nebraska in February, was dismissed from the team in late June after an incident involving a Husker teammate. It was initially reported that he was headed for the University of Miami.
Fuente told the Memphis Commercial Appeal the following as the Tigers added the 6-foot-5, 240-pound defensive end from Tampa, Fla.
“We, obviously, are very excited to have him here,” Fuente said. “He was involved in an unfortunate situation, but we got letters of recommendation from an associate athletic director at Nebraska, from (Suttles') high school principal, his high school football coach, a high school teacher and we talked to two assistant coaches at Nebraska. They all had nothing but unbelievable things to say about him. They said he was a really good kid who made a mistake and was in a bad situation.”
Suttles attended Monday's practice, but will sit out the 2013 season and have four years of eligibility starting in 2014. Fuente knew of Suttles from recruiting him out of Gaither High in Tampa.
Memphis also is on the verge of adding former NU defensive lineman Chase Rome after he completes some undergraduate work.
Video: Coach Bo Pelini
Video: Wide receiver Jamal Turner
Video: Offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles