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Photo by Kelly Mosier

Husker Notes: Freshman Bradley making impression

By NU Athletic Communications

By Brian Rosenthal / Huskers.com

It’s easy for coaches to point to players in fall camp and recognize them as true freshmen.

Then, there’s Jaylin Bradley.

“He looks like a veteran guy. He doesn’t look like a freshman who can’t line up,” Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said. “He goes out there and he knows, for the most part, what to do.”

That’s high praise only five days into practice. Heck, that’s high praise at any point of practice for a newcomer.

Yet neither Langsdorf nor running backs coach Reggie Davis were shy Thursday in saying Bradley, a 6-foot, 180-pound running back from Bellevue, is strongly in the hunt for playing time.

“He’s really athletic and he’s talented, which has stood out to me,” Langsdorf said. “When he has the ball in his hands, he’s explosive. It’s been fun to see. He’s had a couple of really nice runs, a lot of screening and came out of the backfield nicely, so he’s doing a good job of showing what he has talent-wise.”

Bradley, a graduate of Bellevue West High School, ran for 2,915 yards and 50 touchdowns, averaging 9 yards a carry his senior season. He also caught 19 passes.

“Jaylin is looking really good catching the ball right now,” Davis said. “He’s learning fast. That’s really what you want to find out about freshmen, is how much can they handle the mental aspect of it? The physical you can pretty much see pretty fast. The mental, you’ve got to wait until you throw it all on them, then you throw them in a situation and see how they handle it.”

At the very least, Bradley figures to work his way onto special teams, Davis said, as could true freshman fullback Ben Miles.

“Any time you’ve got a good football player, they usually can carve out a role for themselves,” Davis said. “Coach Riley is big on people finding a niche, finding something they can do extremely well, and us finding a way to put them in there so we can use that niche to help us win games."

 

Four-Man Fray

For now, Bradley is part of a strong four-man rotation at running back, along with Tre Bryant, Devine Ozibgo and Mikale Wilbon.

Ideally, Langsdorf said he would like to find one capable, versatile back who’s able to shoulder the load.

“I would love to have one take off with the job. That hasn’t happened yet,” he said. “We’d rather not have bunch of guys playing.”  

As hits become more common, the race will sort itself out, Langsdorf said. Thursday’s practice was the first in full pads.

 “Until we put the pads on and really hit,” Langsdorf said, “that will clean itself up a little bit.”

Davis offered compliments for all of the running backs, as Nebraska looks to replace starter Terrell Newby.

“Devine did a great job of trimming down and really improving his body,” Davis said. “He did an excellent job there, so that’s helped him on the field.

“Tre, he’s consistent for us. That’s what you like about Tre. He can do it all, and he’s consistent for us. Mikale, like I said, he’s the most-sudden guy in the room, dynamic guy we’ve got.”

 

Protecting Lee

Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh said Cole Conrad, a junior from Fremont, has a slight edge over sophomore Michael Decker at center. Conrad, a walk-on, started five games at tackle last season after David Knevel was injured.

Knevel is back healthy, and as is junior tackle Nick Gates, who played through a bad ankle late last season.

Obviously, they’re key figures in protecting quarterback Tanner Lee, who brings a strong, accurate arm but less mobility than his predecessor, dual-threat Tommy Armstrong Jr.

However, that’s not as bad as it necessarily sounds. Langsdorf pointed out a quarterback with consistent drop-backs and footwork will help the offensive line.

“Tanner’s good with that,” Langsdorf said. “He’s got good footwork. He’s not too deep or too shallow in the pocket. The line, knowing exactly where he’s going to be, is a huge deal. They want to protect for that launch point spot.”

 

No Stereotypes

The addition of Lee completes the coaching staff’s transition to pro-style offense. In coach Mike Riley’s first two seasons, coaches adapted to the capabilities of Armstrong while mixing in their ideas.

That brings us to players like De’Mornay Pierson-El and Tyjon Lindsey, smaller receivers who some may label as slot receivers.

No more of that, receivers coach Keith Williams said.

“The body-type stereotype, if you will, doesn’t exist in a pro-style offense,” Williams said. “The slot wide-out body type is being short and quick. That’s more for a no-huddle type spread offense where you’re running all quick-outs and things like that.

“With a pro-style offensive, if you can run routes, you can be an outside guy."

Reach Brian at brosenthal@huskers.com or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.



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