Patient, Team-First Senior Leaders Honored
Randy York’s N-Sider
Whoever said potential has a shelf life must have had Ron Kellogg III in mind, and for those who like to see teamwork and perseverance rewarded, you have to like the way Andrew Green has parlayed three years of secondary experience into his new home at safety. Kellogg and Green arrived at Nebraska on different paths, but in their fifth season as Huskers, they share a couple of fundamental traits – patience and a team-first mindset. Those important leadership qualities helped both earn a Nebraska Player of the Game honor following last Saturday’s 44-7 Husker mastery of Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind.
A senior walk-on quarterback from Omaha Westside High School, Kellogg was named Nebraska’s Offensive Player of the Game. A highly recruited senior safety from San Antonio, Green was named the Huskers’ Defensive Player of the Game. Three teammates shared the Special Teams Player of the Game award – Mauro Bondi, a sophomore kicker from Boca Raton, Fla.; Michael Rose, a redshirt freshman linebacker from Kansas City; and Colby Starkebaum, a senior linebacker from Sterling, Colo. Scout Team Players of the Week were Adam Taylor, a freshman I-back from Katy, Texas (Offense); Joey Felici, a junior cornerback from Millard, Neb. (Defense); and Chris Weber, a freshman linebacker from Elkhorn, Neb. (Special Teams).
Kellogg’s Greatest Strength: His Calming Influence
Kellogg came off the bench behind Tommy Armstrong Jr. and completed 10 of 13 passes for 141 yards and an eight-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Quincy Enunwa at Purdue. “He’s been patient and waiting for his time,” Nebraska Offensive Coordinator Tim Beck said Tuesday of Kellogg. “His demeanor has a calming effect on our team, and his experience has helped him see all the things you need to see. Purdue did a lot of things we hadn’t prepared for, and we really needed his calming influence. His ability to recognize and execute all the things we needed him to execute got us in the right place. He’s just a team-first guy.”
Nebraska Secondary Coach Terry Joseph had equally high praise for Green, who finished with four solo tackles, one stop behind David Santos, the Huskers’ leading tackler at Purdue. “Andrew has done a really good job for us, especially the last two weeks. He’s really played at a different speed and tackled a lot better,” Joseph said Tuesday. “Here’s a guy who changed positions at the end of spring ball because he was willing to do what was best for the team. That’s really Andrew’s personality … a true team guy when it comes to how we want to use him. He’s probably been one of the unsung heroes of our defense this season.”
Versatility the Result of Green’s Change to Safety
For Green, patience has been a virtue, even though he has been a regular part of Nebraska’s secondary rotation for three consecutive years, including a junior season that included 12 personal starts. “Andrew has had an up-and-down career, but he’s a smart guy who’s already graduated,” Joseph said. “We figured if anybody could adjust to a different position, even at this stage, it would be Andrew. Moving has really helped his versatility. He already knew how to play corner and now he knows how to play safety. He can also play the dime position, so against spread teams, his experience playing multiple positions really comes in handy. He has a better understanding and gives us more options. His reads are faster. That gives him more confidence and allows him to be in better position to make more plays.”
Kellogg is your classic case of things turning out best for people who make the best of the way things turn out. The 2009 Nebraska Scout Team MVP of the Year has seen his share of bench time and road blocks, but for him, Nebraska football has never been an obstacle course. The game, in fact, has been his own personal training ground for life. Saturday’s Purdue experience was a booster shot for Kellogg’s confidence. “He loves Nebraska, and he loves playing here,” Beck said. “He loves being around his teammates every day at practice and always puts them ahead of himself. I’ve always told him we had a lot of confidence in him, and there would come a time when we really needed him, and he was going to have to step up and take full advantage of it.”
Bondi, Rose, Starkebaum All Play Special Roles
Bondi is playing the ultimate teammate role well himself. At Purdue, he averaged 65 yards for six kickoffs. Three were touchbacks and the other three were in the same altitude category. “He’s kicked extremely well for us kicking off,” Nebraska Special Teams/Linebacker Coach Ross Els said. “Every time that he had the wind behind him, even if it was a small wind, he kicked that ball so far out of the end zone, they couldn’t think of trying to bring it back. The touchbacks have been a big plus for us. Another thing he did really well was kicking into the wind, even if wasn’t strong. He was getting the ball placed where we needed it and getting it placed fairly deep. When he wasn’t kicking it out of the end zone, it was five to seven yards deep. We need that ball placed in a certain spot. We don’t just take that deep and react to it. Where he placed the ball outside the hash was near the numbers where we wanted it and helped everyone.”
Starkebaum’s and Rose’s aggressive play on special teams helped them share the Player of the Game award with Bondi. “Both got the award for the same reason,” Els said. “Those two made the tackles on the kickoffs that were returned down deep from their own territory.” Starkebaum got the credit for two solo tackles on deep kickoffs, but film showed Rose was in the same place on both stops. “Those two kids did a good job of getting around their guy and throwing their face in there and making the tackle. That’s why both earned that honor. They set a tone, and it was encouraging for our defense to see Purdue snapping the ball on the 15 or 20. Our players like it and the crowd likes it. It’s a big momentum factor all the way around.”
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