August 23, 2011

Tuesday notebook: Pelini brings the good and bad

Stafford continuing to impress

Being a junior college transfer, safety Daimion Stafford has a much smaller window of opportunity to make an impact an Nebraska than most of his defensive teammates.

Through his first two-plus weeks of fall camp, Stafford seems to be taking full advantage of his chance.

It seems whenever NU defensive backs coach Corey Raymond talks about the competition at the safety position, Stafford's name is always one of the first he mentions. That was the case once again when Raymond spoke to reporters on Tuesday.

Raymond said it's been Stafford's blend of athleticism, physicality and knowledge of the game that has made him such an impressive player thus far.

"He's a very physical, very athletic guy," Raymond said. "I mean, he packs a punch when he comes in to hit people. Hopefully he can continue to work the way he has been… He's just a smart football player. He's football smart. He's one of those guys who's got a lot of football knowledge, and that's helped him sort of hit the ground running here."

Raymond added that Stafford still has a lot to learn, but with the work ethic and determination the Norco, Calif., native has displayed so far during camp, it might not be long before he's ready to play a big role for the Blackshirts this season.

"You have to keep working with Daimion," Raymond said. "He has to just keep learning and studying. That's the thing that's going to make him better."

- Robin Washut

Burkhead trying to learn from the best

Running backs coach Ron Brown made the suggestion one day to junior running back Rex Burkhead that he go back and watch some of old film of the great backs to play both at Nebraska and for former Husker opponents before him.

One game Brown particularly recommended was Nebraska's 63-42 win over Oklahoma State back in 1988, when a star running back by the name of Barry Sanders racked up 189 yards and four touchdowns on 35 carries for the Cowboys.

It turned out Sanders was one of Burkhead's favorite running backs of all-time, and once he learned he could get his hands on that game film, he jumped at the opportunity.

"Barry Sanders was my guy growing up," Burkhead said. "He was kind of my idol, and I loved watching him play and I love watching his highlights on YouTube and stuff. I found out I could get those tapes, and right away I went searching for them. I asked our film guy if he had a copy, and he ended up finding one. I watched it, and (Sanders) was something else."

Burkhead said the aspects of Sanders' game he took the most from were his relentless style with the football and the way he was always able to avoid the big hit and make something out of nothing on his runs.

Given that Burkhead is being counted on to be one of the Huskers' top offensive leaders and producers this season, learning how to limit some of the wear and tear was certainly a good move.

"I just wanted to get down some of his moves and his technique and just the way he went about the game," Burkhead said. "He made defenders miss in the smallest if holes, and he was a great guy as well… He would have 1- or 2-yard runs, and then he'd come back and break five or six tackles and get like a 10- or 12-yard gain.

"Just the way he battled through adversity and came back play after play, it was something else. It was something to watch."

- Robin Washut

Quick hits

***Wide receivers coach Rich Fisher said freshman [db]Jamal Turner has still been taking reps at quarterback and receiver. However, even with the recent injury to Broekemeier, Fisher said he didn't expect Turner to spend any more time under center than usual.

"Our plan with him has been the same from start to finish," Fisher said.

***One of the names that sometimes gets left out of the discussion at receiver is junior Tim Marlowe, but Fisher said Marlowe has been as good as anyone so far this fall.

"I think Timmy Marlowe has been doing outstanding," Fisher said. "He's had a tremendous. I think he's way improved from spring ball. You've got to remember, he was kind dinged up (in the spring), and I didn't get to form much of an opinion of him because he wasn't out there much. He's shown me lot."

***One last note on the receivers, Fisher said he's been very pleased with the small number of drops his wide outs have been committing in practice. While he wouldn't go into detail, he said he has a "penalty system" for players who can't hold onto the football, and apparently it's made a difference.

"Put it this way: We've got a penalty system in place, and they don't like the penalty system," Fisher said. "We're not doing a whole lot of it, which means we're doing what we need to in practice. I think today we had one drop. That's been a point of emphasis for us and something that we talk about constantly."

***Senior center Mike Caputo has been one of the few mainstays on the offensive line amid the rash of injuries to hit the unit this fall. He said he's been impressed with the way NU's younger linemen stepped up when guys ahead of them went down.

"Coach (Barney) Cotton's saying has always been 'next guy up,'" Caputo said. "That's just what we've been doing. The next guy steps up, and you just keep moving forward. We've got guys who are younger who can play, and they've been stepping up, so we'll be OK."

***One player in particular who Caputo has noticed has been redshirt freshman Jake Cotton, who has flourished since moving from tackle to guard this fall.

"Jake Cotton plays really hard," Caputo said. "He's got some technique things to clean up, but he's a hard player and he's a good guy to play next to. I think it's more his strength. He's a very strong guy, and he plays really hard. He's a strong-headed guy, and that's what makes it good."

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