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Saturday Special: David improves

The Husker scrimmage on Saturday produced good things and bad, according to coach Bo Pelini. No surprise there. That’s a typical assessment. However, the ball was on the ground only once in “about 150” snaps. That was something specific from Pelini, and a definite positive, as was the fact that there were just two false starts.

“It’s not bad,” Pelini said, noting that the false starts involved “the young guys, so that shows me the emphasis is working, and the progress. But one’s too many as far as I’m concerned.”

The scrimmage came on the heels of a less-than-satisfactory practice on Friday. Pelini said he didn’t know whether the players were looking ahead to the scrimmage rather than focusing on Friday’s practice, but compared to Friday, the team “got a lot done.”

“It’s about evaluating our players . . . giving them opportunities and seeing who’s taking to the coaching, and I saw some good things on both sides,” he said.

“I (also) saw a lot of things we need to get fixed.”

Among the good things was the effort of senior linebacker Lavonte David, who “made some tremendous plays out there today,” said Pelini. “He continues to get better.”

The Huskers are adjusting to a new offense under a new coordinator, of course.

“I think their overall understanding of the offense is good,” Pelini said. “The execution isn’t always there yet. I mean, some of the details of it aren’t there. But the further we come fundamentally, the better off we’re going to be because I think the knowledge is there. Their understanding has gotten better and better, and I feel good about where we are as far as that’s concerned.

“It’s the technique and fundamental aspect of it that we’ve got to keep coming.”

Taylor Martinez got limited reps during the scrimmage. Though he “tweaked” a toe earlier in the week, that wasn’t the reason. “It’s not a bad thing,” Pelini said. “It gave us a chance to really get a good look . . . get a lot of quarterbacks reps and spread out the reps with the first team.”

Freshman Brion Carnes, who’s coming off a redshirt, “did some really good things out there today,” said Pelini. “Cody Green had a good scrimmage; I thought he did some good things.”

In fact, Kody Spano “did some good things,” too. “I think across the board we saw some good things,” said Pelini. “We saw a lot of things that need to get fixed up and we need to shore up.

“But it’s that time of year. And that’s what we’re out there practicing for.”

If it weren’t for bad luck, he’d have no luck at all. Spano could use that time-worn saying to summarize his Cornhusker career to this point.

The sophomore from Stephenville, Texas, graduated high school early and went through spring practice in 2008, then redshirted. A knee injury ended the spring of 2009 for him. He rehabbed and came back, only to be sidelined by another knee injury in the fall of 2009.

“He’s gone through some tough times, and fortunately for us, he’s a tremendous kid, tremendous character,” Pelini said. “He’s overcome a lot, and he’s out there fighting.

“This is really the first time he’s been out there in a while with full-speed action and he’s done some good things. But it takes time. You go through two tough injuries like that, there are a lot of guys that wouldn’t come back from that. But Kody, he showed resiliency and toughness, and he’s persevered right through it.”

The Huskers have begun working on kick returns, finding a replacement for the departed Niles Paul, and “we have a bunch of guys back there trying to get a feel of who’s going to be the guys,” special teams coach John Papuchis said following Friday’s practice.

In addition to Brandon Kinnie, who returned six kickoffs last season, the bunch includes Kenny Bell, Quincy Enunwa, Jamal Turner, Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Josh Mitchell.

All are wide receivers except Mitchell, a cornerback.

Nebraska is realizing the benefits of a recruiting philosophy of making linemen on both sides of the ball a priority, according to defensive coordinator Carl Pelini. “You’ve got to be good up-front,” he said. “So we’ve really, as a staff, made a concerted effort early in the recruiting process to identify big guys and really recruit them hard as an entire staff, not just leave it up to one guy to try and land them.”

The Huskers’ 2011 recruiting class reflects that emphasis, including five offensive linemen and four defensive linemen, two ends and two tackles – one of whom, Kevin Williams, enrolled early.

Nebraska’s 2010 recruiting class included six defensive linemen and three offensive linemen. Two of the defensive linemen, tackles Chase Rome and Jay Guy, enrolled early. Another, Jake Cotton, moved to the offensive line this spring, following a redshirt season.

Among the recurrent themes on defense this spring has been the need to develop depth at linebacker. Carl Pelini was asked about the position following Friday’s practice.

“I still hate ‘em all,” he said, tongue-in-cheek. “I still hate most of them.”

The communication at linebacker has improved with the return of Sean Fisher, who missed last season with a broken leg. Will Compton also missed time with a foot injury.

David started every game and broke the school single-season tackles record.

This spring, “they’re getting used to playing together,” said Pelini. “Across the whole defense there’s a lot of communication . . . between safeties and linebacker, too. If you look at that group, “Fish” (Fisher), Lavonte, Will, (Austin) Cassidy, (Courtney) Osborne, P.J. Smith, those are all guys who are experienced, get the scheme, and so there is a lot of communication going on, which is helping us.”

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