LINCOLN — As they carefully took Daniel Davie from the practice field in March, the Nebraska cornerback couldn’t help but recall the previous time he was helped off in such a manner.
It was probably because that one didn’t turn out too well.
Davie suffered a torn ACL covering a kickoff in a mid-November game against Michigan State in 2013. He would miss the rest of that sophomore season — and then the following spring when he had hoped to be winning a starting job.
This time it was the right ankle, but no less concerning as he left his NU teammates behind in only the third practice of the spring.
“Initially I thought it was broken for sure, because I heard it pop,” Davie said. “It was pretty scary, but once they did the X-ray and everything, they just let me know it was going to be something where I just had to let it heal. Just a time thing.”
Davie long since has returned to 100 percent, and headed into Thursday night ready to let the Huskers’ new coaching staff see what they missed for the majority of spring drills.
“I just feel like I’ve got something else to prove,” he said. “They know what I can do, but at the same time I just kind of want to establish myself as a No. 1 corner. I feel like the coaches see me as that, but I want to go out there and put it on the field as well.”
Davie started all 13 games last season and contributed two interceptions and six pass breakups, all there on film for NU defensive coordinator Mark Banker and secondary coach Brian Stewart to see. That should keep him from trying to do anything more than just his job over the next four weeks.
It was a little different a year ago when the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder not only had to prove he was healthy but worthy of getting on the field.
“I didn’t have any starting experience or really any game experience playing defense,” Davie said. “I feel like now I’ve just got to go and do what I know how to do. I’m confident in what I can do out there on the field.”
Davie and the rest of the cornerbacks will be an important part of how the Huskers play under Banker. They’ll need to win the one-on-one battles without as much regular safety help.
If you’re a cornerback, though, Davie said that better be the way you want it.
“That’s part of the position,” he said. “That’s something I enjoy and something I’ve been working on throughout the summer.”
The success of Davie has validated the former staff settling on him as a cornerback instead of a receiver, something Davie didn’t know was planned for him until he arrived in Lincoln. It makes sense now, and with his size, range and tools he should be entertaining some NFL aspirations if this season goes well.
But “this season” is all that matters right now.
It’s why Davie was among a half-dozen Huskers who showed up at the Mike Riley introductory press conference last December, immediately trying to point himself forward as the sting of the Bo Pelini firing had barely a few days to start wearing off.
Davie said he wanted to hear what the new guy had to say, but also not waste any time getting behind him.
“I thought it was important leadership-wise to just show that I was there, and it wasn’t any ill will towards the new coaching staff or anything like that,” Davie said. “So I kind of just did that to kind of set an example for all the younger guys, that if this is our coach, we kind of got to get on board with him if we want to win some games and do what we wanted to do.”
Davie hobbled back into some minor work before spring practice was over, but was held out of the Red-White scrimmage with the ankle still tender and his rehab more important.
Still, he absorbed enough from Stewart to know what will be expected of him through fall camp.
“Coach Stew is real knowledgeable, especially about the corners,” Davie said. “He taught me a lot of new techniques and things I can apply to my game, as well as things about offenses and little things to look for when I’m out there. As a secondary as a whole, we really enjoy him and the things he’s brought to the room.”
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