Running backs

From left, running backs Devine Ozigbo, Austin Rose and Wyatt Mazour prepare for practice Thursday. The trio, along with Tre Bryant, Mikale Wilbon and Jaylin Bradley, are battling for playing time in Nebraska’s backfield.

Devine Ozigbo has looked slim and trim this training camp. He’s stayed in the weight room, which has helped, but most importantly, he said, he stayed in Lincoln instead of going home to Sachse, Texas, over the summer.

In other words, he avoided his mother’s excellent Nigerian cooking.

“And Whataburger,” Ozigbo said, referencing the hamburger chain in Texas. “I didn’t get that this year. I’m kind of upset, but I’m waiting for the opportunity to go home and get some.”

Ozigbo had to buy his own food over the summer, so he bought healthier options. He exercised portion control, too.

“I’d stop when I was full — instead of trying to finish the whole meal,” Ozigbo said. “Just mental things.”

Progress made ‘day by day’

Everywhere Lee looked during Thursday’s practice, he saw progress.

Almost two weeks through fall camp, the junior from Destrehan, Louisiana, said the new-look offense is beginning to gel, but so is the defense they’re having to battle every day.

“It’s been going great,” Lee said. “I think we’ve been doing a great job of pushing each other, especially the defense pushing us and us pushing them. I think we’ve gotten a lot better in these nine, 10 days we’ve been going at it.

“The motto ‘day by day’ is something we carry with us,” Lee said. “To continue to get better and see improvements every day is something we’re focusing on in meetings.”

Lee and his offensive coaches have been playing chess with new defensive coordinator Bob Diaco and his defense. While it’s been challenging to see what’s coming next out of the new 3-4 defensive look, for Lee the process is fun.

“He’s always changing up looks trying to get us a little bit,” Lee said. “It’s fun. The defense looks great. They have a new-found energy about them, and they’re flying around, so it’s really encouraging to see that as well.”

McNitt hoping for bigger role

Is fullback coming back?

Luke McNitt doesn’t have any expectations about how and if his fullback position will be used in the offense. But he’s seen this situation before.

The Kearney native recalled Thursday how Andy Janovich carved out a role in the offense in 2015. A future NFL draft pick, Janovich finished with 42 carries for 265 yards and three touchdowns while also catching two passes for 58 yards that year. But it began with a fall camp in which Janovich showed he was ready for the opportunity.

McNitt, now a senior, is trying to do the same after getting two carries for 4 yards last season.

“Whatever the coaches are going to ask me to do, I’m going to do it,” McNitt said. “Whether that’s carrying the ball, whether that’s catching the ball, whether that’s pass protection or run blocking, it doesn’t matter to me. I think as far as catching the ball and running the ball, you have to prove that you’ll be able to do it. And I think I’m slowly starting to do that.”

True freshman Ben Miles is also coming along in that capacity, McNitt said. “He has a very bright future ahead of him.”

RB competition stays friendly

The last time Mikale Wilbon was this excited for a season, he was a high school senior in Chicago who built his stats on juking and outrunning defenders.

Four years later, he’s a veteran among Husker running backs. He’s the one advising freshman Jaylin Bradley to read his blocks instead of freelancing. He’s making a habit of staying after practice for extra work.

Wilbon calls the running back competition “friendly fire,” a situation where guys get along but know they are trying for the same job. But the 5-foot-9, 200 pound junior said he’s past comparing his snaps with others or trying to figure out where he is in the pecking order with Ozigbo, Tre Bryant and Bradley.

“I try to stay away from that because it just takes my focus out of me playing my game,” Wilbon said. “They evaluate every move we take and I take that into consideration because I’m trying to be perfect every play.”

Wilbon played 10 games last year, gaining 89 yards on 15 carries. Assistant Reggie Davis told him and the other backs to keep grinding. Now nearly two weeks into fall camp, it’s starting to feel like a grind.

But it’s a good pain, Wilbon said. The kind that comes with playing more football.

“Yesterday and today, my legs felt kind of heavy,” Wilbon said. “But we’re getting through it. That’s the perks of fall camp, so just still try to get better every day. Ice down.”

Quick hits

» Redshirt freshman Boe Wilson spent some time with the first team offensive line Thursday. Langsdorf said it wasn’t a “set emphasis,” but rather a chance to get the Lee’s Summit, Missouri, native a few reps with Jerald Foster out for a few plays. Langsdorf said Wilson continues to battle with Tanner Farmer at right guard.

» McNitt said sophomore tight end Matt Snyder has the nickname “Screech” for his resemblance to the “Saved by the Bell” character. “He’s going to be mad at me for letting that one slip,” McNitt said, “but that’s what we call him.”

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Reporter - Nebraska athletics

Sam covers Nebraska football, recruiting, women's basketball and more for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @swmckewonOWH. Email:

Evan Bland covers Nebraska football, baseball and other sports for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @EvanBlandOWH.

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