Nebraska wrapped up preseason camp with a light workout in helmets and shorts at Memorial Stadium Saturday morning. After three weeks of work, the team now turns its attention to game preparation with the season opener against Wyoming a week away.
After practice, head coach Bo Pelini announced that seven players who originally joined the program as walk-ons will be on scholarship for the 2013 season. The group includes three seniors who were on scholarship during the spring semester and will remain on scholarship for their final season as Huskers. That trio includes quarterback Ron Kellogg III, tight end Jake Long and safety Wil Richards.
Kellogg served as Nebraska’s number two quarterback last season and is a prime candidate for that role again this fall. Long was part of Nebraska’s regular rotation at tight end the past two seasons and is the likely starter at the position in 2013. Long joins his twin brother Spencer as walk-ons who went on to earn a scholarship as Spencer received the honor last fall. Richards has been a key member of the Nebraska special teams the past two years.
Four additional Huskers have been placed on scholarship for the first time, including senior defensive tackle Brodrick Nickens, senior linebacker Colby Starkebaum, junior center Mark Pelini (the coach's nephew) and sophomore fullback Andy Janovich.
Nickens made the move from offensive line to defensive tackle in the spring and is in line for playing time this fall. Starkebaum is a second-generation Husker, following in the footsteps of his father John, who lettered for NU from 1972-74. The younger Starkebaum has been a reserve linebacker and key scout team performer throughout his career.
Pelini is in a battle for the starting center position after serving as the backup at the spot last season. Janovich played as a true freshman at fullback last season and is expected to share playing time with the top unit at that spot in 2013. Janovich earned a scholarship in just his second season in the program, the quickest any player has moved from walk-on to scholarship under Bo Pelini.
Overall, the group of new scholarship recipients includes four native Nebraskans in Kellogg, Long, Janovich and Nickens. Richards joined the NU program from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, Pelini is a Youngstown, Ohio native while Starkebaum joined the NU program from Sterling, Colorado.
Saturday’s announcement continues a long Husker tradition of walk-ons earning scholarships during their career at Nebraska. In fact, Bo Pelini has now placed 26 former walk-ons on scholarship during his six seasons as Nebraska’s head coach. When asked if this was one of his favorite parts of the job, Pelini quickly responded affirmatively.
“Absolutely, they put in such hard work and obviously they don’t have all the luxuries or the advantages being on scholarship financially and obviously they are on the football team and have the same requirements as kids on scholarship. That’s what makes this program special and different, the walk-on tradition continues and it will continue forever.”
Pelini took a wait and see approach on where he thinks the team is at going into game week. "Well, we will find out next week. I like our camp, I think we got a lot done and a lot accomplished.”
Pelini also noted that incoming freshman linebacker Marcus Newby is on campus and will join the football team next week. Newby was a top 150 prospect according to multiple recruiting services and joins a young NU linebacker corps.
Nebraska will return to the practice field Monday afternoon to get ready for Wyoming next Saturday night.