LINCOLN — Expect Wan’Dale Robinson to see an uptick in touches. And Nebraska would like it to begin this weekend.
Coach Scott Frost said Thursday that the Huskers want the ball in the hands of the dynamic true freshman receiver/running back more often as the team continues final prep for Northern Illinois. Robinson, a former four-star prospect, has six carries for 30 yards and six catches for 68 more in two games.
Frost said creating opportunities for Robinson and sophomore Maurice Washington to make plays will be key in getting the offense back on track. With Robinson in particular, that could mean more work in the backfield.
“We need to get other guys the ball, but we need to create any way we can to get those two guys with the ball,” Frost said. “And if we’re not getting one of them enough touches, then we gotta manufacture it and allow them to make the plays they’re capable of.”
Nebraska will eventually be able to insert Robinson anywhere and let him operate as a running back, in the slot or out wide, Frost said. But it’s hard to open things up that much right away.
“We gotta be smart with how we use him,” Frost said. “But he’s capable of doing both. It’s just hard to overload him with three different positions right now. The more time goes by, the more I think we’re going to be able to utilize him because of his familiarity with what we’re doing.”
Beware of dogs
Frost has been in the shoes of Northern Illinois coach Thomas Hammock plenty of times.
Nebraska’s coach has been a double-digit underdog in a game — at Central Florida and NU — and knows that in those cases you have to take chances. So he expects Northern Illinois, a 14-point underdog, to do just that.
“You want to throw everything in the kitchen sink at the other team,” Frost said. “So our defense needs to be ready for that.”
Frost said Nebraska’s defense didn’t handle the “gadget” plays from Colorado, which hit a 96-yard flea flicker for a touchdown that altered the game’s energy and momentum.
“We’ve got to be situationally aware and ready for anything they throw at us,” Frost said.
n It was another good week of practice, Frost said, with the offense and defense improving “big time.” There was more attention to detail and effort to make things work.
n Coaches don’t consider ball security to be an issue for Adrian Martinez, despite the fact he’s lost two fumbles and thrown two interceptions. Frost added that he doesn’t want it to become a chronic problem, either.
“We stressed it just as much or more than ever this week,” Frost said. “We gotta take care of the football.”
n Frost said NU is likely to get more receivers involved earlier Saturday in an effort to keep the position group fresher late in the game. Some young players who are close to being ready need to get on the field and “learn on the fly.” Others like Kanawai Noa, Mike Williams and Jaron Woodyard — all seniors with zero catches this year — will find a way to help, too.
“It’s an anomaly to me that a couple of those guys haven’t seen a ball yet,” Frost said. “But that can’t keep up. It’s inevitable that the ball’s going to get to them, and they need to make plays when it happens.”
n Redshirt freshman center Cameron Jurgens still hasn’t been 100 percent physically but is working toward it. Frost said the learning curve also continues for the Beatrice product who sat out last year and missed the end of his high school career with an injury.
n Coaches continue to feel optimistic about running back Dedrick Mills and his abilities despite the fact that he’s run for just 68 yards on 23 carries so far.
“I still expect great things out of him this year,” Frost said. “He’s going to be a big part of what we’re doing Saturday and beyond.”
n Frost said he will probably announce the recipients of NU’s two remaining open scholarships on Monday.
n Nebraska has had too many situations where it is trying to pick a “perfect play.” Frost, who calls the plays, said that can happen when the offense is behind on down and distance and not in a rhythm.
“That’s not really who we are,” Frost said. “So we gotta be better on first down and we gotta stick to what we know and what we can do well and what the guys know and can do well.”
n Frost prefers early kickoffs so coaches can see their families and players can get extra rest. But he said the atmosphere at Memorial Stadium under the lights is “special.”
“I can’t wait to see the environment,” Frost said. “We got the best fans anywhere and we’re all grateful for them. So I can’t wait to feel the buzz in the stadium.”