The Hastings Tribune/Monday, Oct. 14, 1996

Walther's playing time increasing


MIKE CAHILL

LINCOLN - Eric Walther is glad to see the Nebraska offense post such big numbers - like in Saturday's 49-0 win over Baylor at Memorial Stadium.

"It gives me a chance to get some quality repetitions in," the Adams Central graduate said. "I'm getting in twice the playing time I had last year."

Walther, the Huskers' third-team free safety, logged 5:45 of playing time in the fourth quarter. Walther entered the game on the kickoff team following quarterback Matt Turman's 45-yard touchdown run to give the Huskers a 49-0 lead. He stayed in at free safety for 13 plays.

The Baylor drive ended when a 44-yard field goal attempt went right with 6:03 left in the game.

"There is pressure despite the score," Walther said. "The first-team defense did a great job and it's our job to protect the shutout."

The drive was the best scoring chance the Bears had all day.

Walther's work is not going unnoticed by his position coach, George Darlington.

"Eric has made a lot of progress, especially in the last two weeks," Darlington said. "At this point, we are looking to next season in terms of his development."

Darlington says the free safety position is the quarterback on defense.

"The position demands the free safety not only know his assignment, but also knows all the other defensive backs' assignments," Darlington said. " This is where Eric has made the biggest improvement this year."

The season didn't start off very well for the redshirt sophomore.

In 1995, Walther had moved up to second team cornerback at the end of spring drills. In the fall he was moved to free safety. In August, Walther was still listed as third team at free safety. Following preseason camp, Walther found himself behind redshirt freshman Jeff Wells at fourth on the depth chart.

"At that point, I had thoughts of why I was here," Walther said. "It made for some long days."

But after the first game against Michigan State, Wells was moved to linebacker and Walther returned to his former status at free safety.

"Eric is real close to the point where he could see more playing time," Darlington said. "We have no problem putting Eric on the field if something happens to (Eric) Stokes or (Eric) Warfield."

Walther also has been helped by being injury-free this season. During his first two season he had various nagging injuries which kept him off the practice field.

Walther did not record a tackle on Saturday. He has a total of three tackles for the season.


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