LINCOLN — Michael Rose looks back on why he wasn't playing much at times this season and it all makes better sense to him now.
It came down to the consistency of his practice habits, and the Nebraska linebacker was pretty blunt Monday discussing what those were like.
“I think maybe I was kind of lazy, kind of lackadaisical, kind of going through the motions,” Rose said.
It resulted in minimal September playing time for the redshirt freshman from Kansas City, Mo. A start at weakside linebacker against Illinois was then followed by two more games of more watching than participating.
“There was definitely some things that I showed early in the year where I wouldn't have played myself, either, if I was a coach,” Rose said. “I think as the year's gone on I've been able to build confidence and just go out there and show the type of football player that I am.”
Rose since has emerged as an important piece of the Husker defense.
The 5-foot-11 230-pounder has started the last three games at middle linebacker, and brought some steadiness and reliability to a position where it had been lacking. He made seven tackles in the loss Saturday against Michigan State — playing all 80 of the Spartans' snaps — after contributing eight stops the week before at Michigan.
“He's playing great,” said David Santos, who had started four games at middle linebacker before moving to outside spots. “From my perspective, I think he's growing. He wants to be a leader. He wants to prove to everybody that he can get the job done.”
Being thrust into the middle linebacker role might have made Rose evaluate where he was at and what he was doing. He realized he needed to be more vocal and play with greater passion and effort.
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And do it all the time.
“You've just got to be focused,” Rose said. “You've got to understand what you're trying to get out of practice, understand you're not just trying to get through it or just get it done. There's objectives and goals you're trying to get accomplished in practice and you need to reach those objectives.”
Some of it, Rose realized, is just growing up and spending more time in the program.
In addition to taking a hard look at his practice habits, Rose said he also is spending more time watching film and studying opponents. Going the extra mile so that he's ready on Saturdays.
“Just preparing yourself to the best of your ability to go out there and play good football,” he said.
NU coach Bo Pelini said the Huskers will continue to look at Rose and freshman Josh Banderas at the middle linebacker spot. Rose pulled all the duty against the Spartans because Banderas missed some practice time last week because of an Achilles injury.
“I think both those guys are going to be really good players for us over the next couple years,” Pelini said. “Who knows? Eventually you might see both on the field together as we start heading into spring and next year. I like the potential. I think our linebackers are getting better.”
Rose knows he can keep going. His confidence so far has been going along for the ride, and got a huge boost as he stayed on the field all of Saturday.
“That's the first time I've done that in a while,” Rose said. “It's fun being out there with those guys.”
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