On Tuesday, Adrian Martinez said he felt “recuperated” and “ready to go” after missing Nebraska’s past two games with a left knee injury as he pushes toward four weeks since he last played in a game.
On Wednesday, Nebraska quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco said his sophomore signal-caller was “full-go” and added, “He looks really good, man. He looks like his old self,” a similar observation to the one he made last week before Martinez missed NU’s game against Indiana. The Huskers’ preferred starter, though, was at least potentially available in an emergency situation against the Hoosiers.
On Thursday, head coach Scott Frost wasn’t going to push the ball any further on Martinez’s status and apparent readiness to return to action Saturday at Purdue.
Asked how the Fresno, California, native looked this week in practice, Frost responded, "Adrian looked like he has dark hair and weighs about 225 pounds.”
If Martinez doesn’t return, sophomore Noah Vedral could make his third straight start. On Tuesday and Wednesday, freshman Luke McCaffrey was not in pads for practice after he came up limping in the fourth quarter against IU and had a bag of ice on his left knee on the sideline.
Huskers look to execute: Frost gets asked almost weekly about how the week of practice went and was asked again on Thursday, in particular because defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said last week his unit was really sharp on Monday and Tuesday but didn’t practice well Wednesday. That, Chinander thought, led in part to NU’s struggles on third downs, which are part of Wednesday’s practice.
“We did some things better this week, obviously some things we’re still working on and working through,” Frost said. “Some things got better. Bottom line: We’ve just got to show up on Saturday and play and execute. We’ve got to be better on third down on defense and we’ve got to not make mistakes on offense.”
Frost warning: Nebraska is playing on real grass this weekend at Purdue, which Frost said was part of the reason the team worked outside in the cold weather on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Huskers were back inside for their normal Thursday helmets-only practice.
“Bottom line we needed to be on the grass, we got on the grass, and we've got some guys that embrace those things,” Frost said.
Secondary questions: Purdue is last in the country in rushing yards per game and will likely put the ball in the air the vast majority of snaps on Saturday.
Frost on Thursday said the NU secondary has dealt with a couple of injury situations — for one, reserve freshman cornerback Quinton Newsome had his left ankle heavily taped and wasn’t walking well after practice Wednesday.
Frost said he only found out about junior safety Marquel Dismuke’s procedural bench warrant — issued after he missed a court date — as he came off the practice field on Thursday, so he didn’t know the details or if it would affect Dismuke’s availability against the Boilermakers.
Dismuke appeared in court Thursday to clear the warrant.
Jurgens improving: For the most part, snapping the ball is like being a referee — if nobody’s noticing the work, that’s probably a good sign. The questions around redshirt freshman center Cameron Jurgens’ snapping have largely subsided in recent weeks as the young lineman has started to find a rhythm.
“Now he’s fully healthy and we’ve had to change up his stance, change up how he grips the ball, change up how far the ball is away from his body,” offensive line coach Greg Austin said on Wednesday. “There are so many tweaks that you have to do to make sure he is still moving at the pace he needs to move coming off the ball, but then also being accurate with his snaps."
The Beatrice native, listed at 6-foot-3 and 285 pounds, missed much of preseason camp with the latest in continued foot/ankle problems, but has seen his health improve as the season progresses. Even so, the converted tight end is learning on the fly.
“That’s what practice is for and that’s what we’re committed to doing,” Austin said. “Whenever there’s a problem, you have to attack it, and Cam has been awesome at attacking his snap issues and we continue to attack it because it’s not, ‘OK, we got it.’ It’s a work in progress on a daily basis, because we don’t want something like a snap to be a hindrance to our efficiency on offense.”