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Changes to base look on defense

Ciante Evans has carved out a name for himself as a solid nickelback for the Huskers this season. Now with Penn State coming to town, Evans will move back outside into a traditional cornerback role.

Ciante Evans will be on the field during base packages.

He isn’t concerned about the change.

“I’ve been practicing corner all week,” Evans said. “I’m doing some basic stuff. Trying to get into a rhythm. Nothing too hard.

“I’ve been playing corner all my life. I just have to fine up some things, tune up some minor details that I wouldn’t do playing nickel. It’s just some things like that.”

Evans has played well inside for Nebraska. The defensive back has been among the most aggressive defenders, breaking up six passes and totaling 31 tackles.

The cornerback said he doesn’t expect to see a whole lot of gimmicks or hurry up offense from Penn State. Evans said he’s expecting a traditional look.

“It’s a lot of ground and pound, running,” Evans said. “Playaction shots. Stuff like that.

“They’re more traditional. Get a play call, run the ball. They’ll try to get a more manageable third down.”

-- Mike Schaefer

Four and out

Nebraska has been playing better defensively, but the Huskers will need to be prepared to Penn State to try to convert fourth downs frequently Saturday.

The Nittany Lions average more than four fourth down attempts per game and are fine with rolling the dice.

"It's just playing until the whistle blows and having discipline with your eyes, because if not, a tight end or fullback can easily sneak out the back and gain two or three yards," senior linebacker Alonzo Whaley said.

All totaled, Penn State is 16 for 30 this year on fourth down attempts, in large part because of problems in the kicking game.

"It's pretty scary," linebackers coach Ross Els said of Penn State going for it on fourth down. "Hopefully they're in enough long yardage situations that they will (kick.)"

-- Michael Bruntz

Weathering injuries

Nebraska's defensive line has been able to weather injuries and absences this season because of improved depth, defensive coordinator John Papuchis said.

Nebraska could be without redshirt freshman Kevin Williams this weekend, and freshman Avery Moss is done for the year after undergoing shoulder surgery. With Thad Randle battling an ailing knee this season, players like Cameron Meredith have stepped up to fill in the gaps. Meredith has played at defensive tackle almost exclusively since the win over Northwestern.

"For one, it's why we try to develop depth in fall camp," Papuchis said. "Knowing that it's a physical year, it's a long season especially in the Big Ten, you're going to have injuries and when you have them, you better have guys who are ready to step up and be the next man in."

One lineman who played early on, but not much since is freshman defensive tackle Aaron Curry. Papuchis said Curry is still playing with the first team defense, but is fourth or fifth on the depth chart.

"The reality for Aaron right now is that he's getting better and as a freshman, he's ahead of where a lot of guys are their first year, but he's the fourth or fifth tackle for us and if we don't end up going that deep in the rotation, that limits his reps, obviously, but he's good enough to be on the varsity and the injury situations are they sneak up on you, you have to have guys ready to play," Papuchis said.

-- Michael Bruntz

Maher's struggles

It's no secret that senior placekicker/punter Brett Maher has had his struggles so far this season.

Maher missed a short field goal against Michigan State, but special teams coordinator Ross Els said he would like to see more consistency from Maher in his punts.

"It's the consistency," Els said. "He'll do really, really good and then he'll screw it up. It's a matter of him getting his mechanics right every time like a golf swing."

Els said that the special teams play has been unspectacular the past few weeks, but that as a positive it hasn't hurt the Huskers. Els said Maher needs to get more consistent with his punting, particularly in games where field position will be at a premium.

"The field goals have been fine except for Michigan State," Els said. "What he can't do is hit those bad punts early in the game."

-- Michael Bruntz

Quick Hits

-- Papuchis on defensive back transfer Jonathan Rose. "I've seen him in individual drills and a little when I look over during scout if he's out there," Papuchis said. "I think he has the potential to be really good. We'll see in the spring, but I'm really excited about him."

-- Among the players who didn't practice Wednesday were senior running back Rex Burkhead and redshirt freshman defensive tackle Kevin Williams.

-- Senior safety P.J. Smith was back at practice on Wednesday.

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