SPRING FOOTBALL: Practice Report 4/8

By at April 8, 2011 | 8:13 PM | Print

Eric Martin remembers his initial reaction last season when Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini asked him to switch from linebacker to defensive end.

“More surprise than anything,” said Martin, who started two games at linebacker in 2010. “But I just wanted to play. Coach said that'd be the next best thing for me, so I made the move.”

Some players approach a position change as a lark, as if dipping a toe in the trenches to see what life among giant linemen is really like.

But Martin has “really taken it seriously,” Pelini said after NU's practice Friday. Of the many defensive ends vying to replace the recently-graduated Pierre Allen, it's Martin – his 6-foot-2 frame now carrying 255 pounds – who's seemingly made the biggest move.

“It's been a great spring for Eric,” Pelini said. “He's really made that transition well. He's going to be a force for us next year.”

With Allen gone and junior starter Cameron Meredith sitting out the spring after shoulder surgery, Martin has been battling with a group of contenders – including senior walk-on Kevin Thomsen, junior Josh Williams and sophomore Jason Ankrah – for more playing time. He doesn't necessarily look the part like Ankrah and Williams do. But Pelini said Martin brings “a little bit more speed and athleticism” to the position.

“He's not quite the size but he's plenty strong enough,” said Pelini, who hinted that Martin's role may extend well beyond being a pass rush specialist.

Pelini indicated he's pleased with the defensive line, too. Sophomore Thad Randle has been working with the No. 1 defense in the wake of Jared Crick's knee injury. Redshirt freshman Chase Rome, who worked with the No. 2 defense last fall despite not playing in a game, has improved his technique. True freshman Kevin Williams made a big impression on Pelini prior to a foot injury.

“He looks like a veteran out there,” Pelini said. “It's shocking.”

There's a good chance Williams won't have to play in 2011, though, because of NU's defensive line depth. Since the arrival of Bo and Carl Pelini at Nebraska in 2008, only one true defensive lineman has played – Meredith. And he took a medical redshirt after hurting his shoulder.

“You don't have to push them into the fire,” Pelini said. “You've got a lot of good seniors and older guys ahead of them. They really have time to develop and you can coach them hard.”

Pelini said the Huskers would again scrimmage Saturday afternoon – their last full scrimmage of camp before the Red/White Spring Game. The scrimmage should extend beyond 100 plays as it did last week.

Notes: Quarterback Taylor Martinez talked at length Friday and told reporters the “offense is looking better every single day” with team chemistry “as close as it's ever been.” The biggest adjustment? “Learning the pace we'll be running at,” Martinez said…Martinez's ankle is generally 100 percent, he said, aside from certain cuts when he can feel a twinge of pain…Martinez said five receivers have emerged from the pack to work with the No. 1 unit: Senior Brandon Kinnie, junior hybrid Kyler Reed, sophomore Stanley Jean-Baptiste, redshirt freshman Kenny Bell and true freshman Jamal TurnerCurenski Gilleylen did not practice Friday and appeared to meeting with the wide receivers…future Nebraska running back Braylon Heard was on hand for the workout Friday, as was Nebraska governor Dave Heineman.

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