Saturday, March 8, 2014
Nebraska opens spring with WR playing QB
By Mitch Sherman
LINCOLN, Neb. -- How’s this for a surprise on the opening day of spring football practice? Nebraska has a new quarterback.
Well, Jamal Turner is not new; the 6-foot-1, 185-pound senior caught 60 passes over the past three seasons. And he has played quarterback -- in high school.
Jamal Turner will workout at both receiver and quarterback this spring.
Turner shared time at QB on Saturday with several others behind Tommy Armstrong Jr. as the Huskers completed the first of 15 spring practices at their indoor practice facility.
Coach Bo Pelini said Nebraska plans “significant reps” for Turner in March and April.
Turner has tried the position in the past at Nebraska, Pelini said, but never in such an expanded role.
“This spring is a time for us to experiment and maybe take it to a different level," Pelini said. "He likes it. He thinks he’s [NFL quarterback] Russell Wilson. Jamal isn’t lacking for confidence.
“I thought he handled some things pretty well. He was further ahead than I thought he’d be. But when you play wideout, you kind of get how the offense runs.”
Turner also spent time at receiver on Saturday. He accounted for more than 10,000 yards in his high school career at Arlington (Texas) Sam Houston.
Armstrong performed well on Saturday with the top offensive unit. Redshirt freshman Johnny Stanton also worked at the position in addition to walk-ons Ryker Fyfe and Tyson Broekemeier. Freshman Zack Darlington, who joined the team in January, wore a green jersey to restrict contact in his first workout.
Senior I-back Ameer Abdullah said he liked the element that Turner adds.
“We’re just trying every new wrinkle we can to make this offense more dynamic,” Abdullah said.
Pelini said he was pleased with the opening day.
“I liked the tempo, the enthusiasm,” the seventh-year coach said. “Obviously, different guys are at different levels right now, as far as their knowledge, but I thought it was a good start.”
The Huskers have installed changes this spring to terminology and other logistics in an attempt to simplify aspects of the offense.
Pelini said he expected more mistakes than occurred.
“I was surprised how smooth it went,” he said. “There were very few missed assignments and alignment errors.”
Secondary matters: Senior safety Corey Cooper, Nebraska’s top tackler in 2013, sat out on Saturday with turf toe, Pelini said. Cooper suffered the injury last week in a conditioning drill.
“I’m not going to push Coop at this time of year,” Pelini said. “We want to make sure he’s 100 percent.”