August 7, 2010

Fan Day notebook: Lee fighting his way back

Despite the fact he started 12 games last season and played a hand in helping Nebraska win 10 games in 2009, nobody is talking about senior quarterback Zac Lee this August.

Instead, most of the focus and attention has been on redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez and sophomore Cody Green. Both Green and Martinez took part in spring practice, while Lee remained in recovery from the off-season surgery he had on his flexor tendon.

As the Huskers get ready to open up fall camp Lee is back, and his teammates say he's as determined as ever to get his starting job back in 2010.

"I see a different person in (Lee) right now with him coming back," wide receiver Brandon Kinnie said. "He says different things to me that he knows he messed up and that he understands right now and he gets it. It's a good feeling, especially when your quarterback has confidence, it gives the whole offense confidence, especially our wide receiver corps."

Senior wide receiver Mike McNeill said he expects a great battle from all three quarterbacks this August.

McNeill added that Lee has played with some added fire over the last few weeks knowing that the other guys have been getting all the attention at quarterback over the summer.

"I think (Lee) knows the other guys played well this spring and they are the ones being talked about and I think he probably has a chip on his shoulder saying 'I was the quarterback last year and know everybody is trying to dethrone me and everybody is giving credit to the other guys,'" McNeill said. "I think he's taken that into the summer and he's worked hard in the weight room and he's trying to get his arm healed and he's done a good job."

Senior running back Roy Helu said it's too early to say who has the edge for the starting quarterback race, but he's happy to see Lee back to his old self.

"When (Lee) came back it was really refreshing," Helu said. "His control of the huddle is good and really familiar. We'll see how everything goes out. I don't really have an opinion on that position, but whoever wins it will be our best quarterback."

-Sean Callahan

Amukamara takes out insurance policy

Most experts have touted senior cornerback Prince Amukamara as the No. 1 defensive back on the 2011 NFL Draft board.

With that said, Amukamara said on Saturday that he's taken out an insurance policy for the 2010 season to protect his NFL future.

"I talked to my dad and we just felt it was something we needed to do," Amukamara said.

Amukamara joins players like Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, Alabama running back Mark Ingram and Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green as some of the other known players in college football to take out an insurance policy for the 2010 season.

The policy is referred to as the NCAA's Exceptional Student-Athlete Disability Insurance program which protects your potential future earnings in the possibility of a career-ending injury.

Athletes can purchase up to $5 million in insurance coverage, with the amount depending on their potential draft projection. Only projected top three round picks in football are eligible and only top-10 picks are eligible for the full $5 million policy. Premiums run $20,000 to $30,000 a year for high end coverage and $5,000 to $8,000 on the low end.

-Sean Callahan

O-line as deep, healthy and confident as ever

The difference between Nebraska's offensive line this season from years past could be seen just by walking around during Fan Day.

With more than 20 offensive linemen on the roster, NU's event staff had to bring out twice as many tables than it used last year in order to fit the entire unit.

Not only is the Huskers' offensive front bigger than its been in overall numbers, it's also as big on talent and confidence than ever before. After dealing with countless injuries throughout last season, the o-line is finally healthy again heading into fall camp, and expectations are soaring.

"I know we can be great," junior right tackle Marcel Jones said. "We always strive to be the most dominant offensive line in the Big 12, if not the entire nation. When we're healthy and everyone is on the same page, I'm sure we're unstoppable. It will be a good season as long as we can stay healthy."

Jones said the development of the line's young players, particularly redshirt freshmen Brent Qvale and Jeremiah Sirles, has provided more depth and competition within the unit than he's seen in his time at Nebraska.

Pair that along with the momentum the unit gained from its dominating performance against Arizona in last year's Holiday Bowl, and Jones thinks the o-line has only scratched the surface on it's potential for this season.

"You watch the Holiday Bowl, we could move the ball and had no problem getting up to the line, getting down and getting off and moving people," Jones said. "Once you see us all healthy and moving on all cylinders, it's a great thing."

- Robin Washut

Hagg aiming to be more physical at peso

After Nebraska officially debuted the peso as the new base defensive package this spring, senior Eric Hagg has been one of the focal points throughout the offseason.

Hagg said he's almost completely adjusted to his new role as the peso back, which replaced the Buck linebacker and is built to be a cornerback/linebacker hybrid position. While he may feel up to speed as far as X's and O's go, he admitted there's still one aspect of the position he's still trying to get used to.

Instead of taking on wide receivers in defending against the run, Hagg now has to get used to meeting pulling linemen and full backs head on.

"It's going to be a test, but it should be good," Hagg said. "I definitely worked at it during the spring, so that really helped me out. It's not like I'm jumping right into it in fall camp."

What's helped Hagg during the transition is the fact that he's already played the position against live competition in two games. He said the coaching staff originally came up with the scheme as a wrinkle to use against Texas in the Big 12 Championship game, and then used it even more in the Holiday Bowl.

While it's been a process, Hagg said he has no worries he'll be completely comfortable at his new peso position by the time fall camp wraps up.

"It was hard during spring, but gradually me and Austin (Cassidy) and the other pesos, we're starting to pick it up," Hagg said. "It's like a new position in the base defense, so we're just learning and picking it up as we go. Now that we've been through spring, we should be more fluent during fall camp."

- Robin Washut

Year of the mustache

As Nebraska tries to get back to its glory days as a program, some players are taking things a step further this year. Apparently there has been a movement over the summer for several defensive players to sport mustaches as a symbol of team unity.

Sophomore defensive end Cameron Meredith claims to have started the trend, and it seems to have gained some momentum over the past few months. Others who were seen sporting 'staches included Hagg and linebackers Will Compton and Sean Fisher.

"Well, obviously (my mustache is) No. 1 because I started the whole trend," Meredith said. "I'm trying to bring back the '70s style. We won championships then, so hopefully this mustache will do us well."

Not everyone has had as easy of a time with the new trend as Meredith, however.

"I kind of got hammered because everybody decided they want to do it and I can't grow a mustache, but it's happening" Fisher joked. "(Meredith) is kind of on his own island for that. I think he just wants to kind of do it for his own personal reasons."

- Robin Washut

Quick hits

***One running back you shouldn't expect to see running "the Wildcat" this fall is Helu.

"I can't throw well," Helu joked. "I'd probably throw better left-handed, so I don't know where my role is in that."

***McNeill said his weight is down to 230 pounds from 245 pounds a year ago. Kinnie is up to 232 pounds from around 215 to 220 pounds a year ago, while Amukamara is 207 pounds and senior Niles Paul reported to camp at 227 pounds.

***Kinnie said nobody on the team needs to be reminded of how the 2009 season ended for the Huskers.

"We know what we've got to do and we know where we are ranked at," Kinnie said. "We just have to go out and do our thing. We've got wristbands that say '0:01.' It still eats away at all of us. It don't need to be reminded, we know what we've got to do."

***McNeill said he's almost completely adjusted to his move from tight end to receiver, though he admitted "there's still some tight end left in me." He said there's still a chance he could line up as a tight end at certain times this season if needed.

***Because of the injuries he dealt with last season, Helu said he scaled back his offseason workout program a bit to include more cardio and low-resistance weight training to allow himself to heal completely.

***Asked if he did anything new over the offseason, Helu said this summer was a bit different than others in one regard.

"Well, I was 21, so I went out a little more," Helu said.

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