LINCOLN — Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory said the Huskers have looked strong through nearly two weeks of fall practice along their starting front four — himself, Maliek Collins, Vincent Valentine and Greg McMullen.
“We have lot of depth inside,” Gregory said. “We’re still trying to figure out some things at the defensive end spot, but I’m pretty confident about it. As a whole, we’ve had a pretty good first week-and-a-half. We’re trying to fix little details — calls that we’ve messed up on — but that’s about it.”
Now about Gregory and McMullen’s backups at defense end: Gregory said junior walk-on Jack Gangwish from Wood River, junior college signee Joe Keels and redshirt freshman A.J. Natter are coming along. Keels and Natter are “still learning the finer details of the defense,” Gregory said.
Gangwish, in the system since 2011, knows the defense. And Gregory said it shows.
“He’s doing a lot better for us this year,” Gregory said. “He’s going to help us a lot on third down. But even on the early downs, he can help us.”
Gregory said he’s impressed with how walk-ons like Gangwish continue to toil just for a chance to play.
“I’ve had numerous talks with Jack about playing time, and it’s always been nice to help them out and see what they go through,” Gregory said. “They practice hard like we do and they’re not on scholarship.”
Coach Bo Pelini said Wednesday after practice that true freshmen Peyton Newell and Sedrick King are also pushing for playing time.
“Newell’s done a really good job over the last couple days,” Pelini said of the 6-foot-3, 270-pounder from Hiawatha, Kansas. Pelini said true freshman Mick Stoltenberg from Gretna is “little ways behind” because he’s just learning the defensive end position.
Newcomers help in secondary
Count at least one member of the NU secondary as impressed with what he’s seen out of the newcomers to the defensive backfield.
Cornerback Josh Mitchell told reporters on Wednesday that freshman corners Josh Kalu from Houston and Chris Jones from Jacksonville, Florida, have all the physical tools to play.
“They have a really good skill set,” Mitchell said. “They’re both really long corners, they have long arms, they’re pretty tall guys. And that’s what we need. We need guys that are long and can help at the beginning of plays, because as we know we have a really nice front seven, a really good pass rush, so we need corners that can stop receivers at the beginning of routes.”
Mitchell was later asked about junior college transfer Byerson Cockrell and how he, along with others, are fitting into the mix and stepping into different roles following the season-ending losses of two players from the secondary.
“They’re looking good. They’re getting more comfortable — that’s the most important thing. They just have to get comfortable out here, not be so nervous. And they just got to learn to trust the guys that are playing next to them. I think they’re figuring that out.
“We need everyone on this team, especially a lot of these young guys. And they’re coming along really well right now.”
Newby, Reilly ‘fine,’ Bo says
Two likely contributors on Nebraska’s offense have missed some practice time lately, but their injuries aren’t serious, Pelini said.
Sophomore I-back Terrell Newby and sophomore receiver Brandon Reilly are day-to-day, Pelini told reporters Wednesday morning.
“They’re fine,” he said.
Walton set to start practicing
The Husker defense could be adding a linebacker by the end of the week.
Pelini said Jaevon Walton planned to arrive on campus Wednesday afternoon. The freshman linebacker had been back home in New Orleans, missing the start of practice because of a family issue.
But Walton could begin practicing with the team Thursday or Friday, Pelini said.
Competition from big brother
Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah grew up with a sibling who played college football. Muhammad Abdullah, now a 37-year-old lawyer, played at Alabama State.
And apparently Muhammad still has some gas in the tank.
The youngest of nine Abdullah siblings said Wednesday that Muhammad pushes and even beats Ameer in certain things when the two get together.
What sort of things do they compete in?
“Bench press, running, squatting, cutting,” Ameer said. “Brothers compete.”
And Muhammad gets the best of Ameer at times, too.
“See, he gets to focus on that all year, though,” Ameer said. “I’ve got to play football, go to class. He’s just benching.”
It was then pointed out that Ameer, one of the best running backs in the nation, was getting beat by a 37-year-old.
“Next question,” he said to a laugh.
Williams signs aid agreement
A third player from the 2015 Nebraska recruiting class signed a financial aid agreement Wednesday, as the Huskers announced that Atlanta defensive back Aaron Williams would enroll in January.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder is a three-star recruit. According to an NU release, Williams had 145 tackles, six interceptions and four pass breakups for Carver High School. Carver plays in Georgia’s Class 4A and finished 7-4 last year.
Williams joins Colorado defensive backs Eric Lee and Avery Anderson as players who intend to enroll in January and have signed financial aid agreements. The agreements do not bind the player to the school, but the school is bound to honor the agreement with the player.