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SPORTS: Husker football | Prep sports | Lincoln Saltdogs | Lincoln Stars | Lincoln Capitols | Golf
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Touted NU cornerback already in 'football mode'

Fabian Washington had a pressing question for college football coaches recruiting him out of Bayshore High School in Bradenton, Fla.

"I was asking each school if it was OK to come early, because once summer hit, I was going into football mode," said Washington, a 5-foot-11, 170-pound cornerback. "I was ready to get out of Florida."

So there was Washington on Monday afternoon, shooting pool alone in Nebraska's player lounge in South Stadium, waiting for an evening workout session with his new teammates as an MTV hip-hop video blared in the background.

One of only a few Husker freshmen on hand so far this summer, Washington has plenty of time to mingle with veterans and learn defensive coverages before preseason camp begins during the first week of August.

Knowing he has a chance to play this season, Washington arrived in Lincoln a week ago. While many Nebraska players find summer jobs, Washington's primary task is to prepare himself to compete for playing time at left cornerback opposite senior All-American candidate DeJuan Groce.

"The coaches said I might be able to play right away, but there's nothing guaranteed," said Washington, regarded by many as the top cornerback to come out of Florida last season. "That's OK with me, I just want a chance. Ithink I can play, but the competition here is good."

Washington knows what he's up against because he watches teammates on game films. He said he's been studying videotape two hours a day, trying to learn coverages and techniques. After film study, he said, he delves into the playbook.

The rest of Nebraska's 17 freshmen will begin summer drills at various times this summer. Many are unable to arrive this early because of all-star games, and touted receiver Isaiah Fluellen has been busy running in track meets around the nation.

"Fabian will have a big jump on some guys," said Groce, of suburban Cleveland, who waited until late July to come to town as a freshman. "Right now, he's going to make mistakes, but he looks good so far."

Nebraska secondary coach George Darlington said he likes to see freshmen early in the summer because it affords them a chance "to learn the lay of the land."

Coaches, however, aren't allowed to watch players in the summer workouts. Darlington, in fact, said Monday he had no idea how many freshmen were in town.

"We don't know they're here unless we run into them," Darlington said.

Nebraska's strength and conditioning staff oversees the workouts on Monday and Thursday evenings at Memorial Stadium. Rock'n roll blares from stadium speakers as players perform a battery of drills. There was little horseplay Monday. In the back of the players' minds is the punishing grind of August two-a-days.

Washington watched from the sideline because of a sore groin, an injury that might sideline him for the next couple of weeks, he said. Meanwhile, however, he'll continue to lift weights as he tries to gain 10 pounds by August.

Regarded as an excellent cover corner -- he sprints 40 yards in 4.3 seconds and had just eight balls caught on his side of the field in four years at Bayshore -- Washington must prove he's physical enough to stop the run.

"Ican tackle," he said. "I'm not a physical, come-up-and-knock-you-out corner, but I will tackle you."

The 19-year-old Washington insists he's not homesick, though he admits he calls his mother daily.

"I can tell in his voice he's missing home," Chandra Washington said.

Home will have to wait, because Washington has entered football mode.

Reach Steven M. Sipple at 473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.


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