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NU’s Burrow finally at home at middle LB
By BOB SCHALLER
For the Star-Herald
LINCOLN — As the Blackshirts lined up against the Notre Dame offense, Jamie Burrow took his place at middle linebacker.
And on his first play, his experience showed as he recovered a fumble to set up Nebraska’s first score.
As the “quarterback of the defense,” Burrow is responsible for making all of the defensive calls after seeing the offensive formation.
If a tight end is uncovered, Burrow has to make sure an outside linebacker or defensive back is aligned properly. He recognizes audibles — from his hours in the film room — and gets his team to respond accordingly.
“I think I’m a pretty good ‘general’ out there,” Burrow said. “I know my way around. I know what’s going on, and I have good technique.”
But the question is this: How long will Burrow be the starting middle linebacker?
After three years of apprenticeship, backing up All-American Carlos Polk the last two years, the senior from Iowa has waited a long time for his chance to run the defense.
However, true freshman Barrett Ruud, who had 15 tackles through the first two games to lead Nebraska, has emerged as the future star of the defense. How long it takes the “future” to arrive is left to be seen. But Ruud’s biggest supporter is none other than Burrow.
“Barrett is going to be a great linebacker, maybe one of the best in the history of Nebraska football,” said Burrow, whose father Jimmy played for the Huskers and is now a graduate assistant coach. “He’s fast and he’s strong and he’s smart. Barrett will be great. And to me, it’s a good thing to know there won’t be any drop-off at my position when I’m gone.”
Ruud is faster and is 6-foot-2, 230 pounds. Though Burrow is listed at 6-foot-1, 245 pounds, he appears to be about 20 pounds lighter — he was listed at 220 to 225 pounds last season. Ruud had 10 tackles against Troy State while Burrow saw limited playing time. But the two did rotate each series. It just so happened that when Burrow was on the field, the Blackshirts forced a bunch of three downs and punt. Whereas when Ruud was in, the opponent had several long drives, allowing Ruud more opportunities — which he seized — to make more tackles.
“That was kind of frustrating,” Burrow said. “It’s nice to have the three and out, but it would have been good to see a little more playing time.”
That time will come. He just hopes it doesn’t come to pass, at least not too soon.