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Husker coach pleased with secondary’s progress
By BOB SCHALLER
For the Star-Herald
LINCOLN — He has a true freshman, and two redshirt freshmen in his top rotations.
And a true sophomore.
So, why is Nebraska secondary coach George Darlington smiling?
“The young players are really stepping up,” Darlington said with a shrug. “It’s a lot of fun.”
True freshman Philip Bland, from Lafeyette, Colo., has already worked his way into the top two.
“Here is a young man who, last year at this time, was playing high school football (just outside of) Boulder, and now he’s got a spot on our unit,” Darlington said. “These younger players have become a big part of the team.”
A big part of the team, perhaps sooner than anyone had originally expected. Redshirt freshmen Lornell McPherson and Lannie Hopkins are also in the rotation. Sophomore Willie Amos, taken out of a redshirt last season, is starting. Sophomore Pat Ricketts, a former walk-on, could be one of the hardest hitters the Huskers have ever had at cornerback.
Bland and Hopkins are two strong players who provide great run support from the safety position. Bland has been all over the field.
“The goal is to get them playing better, week in and week out,” Darlington said. “There is a lot to learn. A lot of these younger players have a big challenge in front of them, because the system takes a while to pick up. But they’ve stuck their noses right in there.”
There was room for more noses because last year, the secondary offered very little run support help. Of course, with very little pass rush, the secondary was forced to cover receivers for four or more seconds, whereas when the pass rush was better in previous years, Husker defensive backs had to only cover their man for two seconds or so. That gave receivers far less time to get open, and gave opposing quarterbacks far less time to scout the field and find an open man.
While the young players have given the secondary arguably the best athletes and potential since the Mike Brown/Ralph Brown era, Darlington is cautious with his praise.
“We have a lot we need to work on,” Darlington said. “We have to get a lot sharper. But we did have a lot of things that we saw last year that we needed to work on. Having this kind of young talent has given us some good opportunities to improve some things.”