Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
LINCOLN, Neb. -- There was a blizzard awaiting me when I traveled up Interstate 29 north from Kansas City this morning. Even after getting up and leaving my hotel by 5 a.m., I still couldn't beat the Kansas blizzard.
But something magically occurred as soon as I crossed over the Nebraska state line on State Highway 2 along the Iowa border: The snow stopped. A few miles later, the rain diminished. And by the time I got into Lincoln, the sun was shining.
It was a "Chamber of Commerce" kind of day in terms of weather, similar to many I've come across heading into Memorial Stadium. It was the crisp kind of day that would have been perfect for a football game.
After catching the end of Nebraska's practice and Bo Pelini's press briefing on Saturday, here are some of my observations.
Support for the Nebraska program looks to be solid from a new generation of Cornhusker faithful. More than 450 youth participated in the Husker Youth Experience. Interestingly, it seemed like there were easily that many parents -- if not more -- who tagged along, too. "The players really enjoy this," Pelini said. "It's something that's good for our program and good for the community. I think you can see that by how enthusiastic people are. They will have fun here."
The bigger and stronger version of junior I-back Roy Helu Jr. looked in midseason form as he ripped off several long runs at the end of practice. And junior I-back Quentin Castille also appeared to have not lost any power after trimming some weight during the offseason. The combination should provide the Cornhuskers with the North Division's best 1-2 running punch if they can remain healthy.
The Cornhuskers had their first day of tackling at practice. Pelini wasn't impressed with his defense's work. "There were some good things done, but I won't be satisfied until it's perfect and we're far from that," Pelini said.
Pelini was particularly disappointed with his team's lack of concentration at times during the workout. "I saw some physicality, discipline, doing what you are taught to do," he said. "But taking what you learn in the classroom and applying it to the football field. I'm not seeing that consistently. The effort was there, but the mental aspect, focus and the mental discipline just wasn't there. We don't have that right now."
Backup freshman quarterback Cody Green has returned to practice a little earlier than expected with a few throws both Friday and at Saturday's practice. "He's been out there throwing a little bit and slowly but surely, he's getting back in it," Pelini said. "He started throwing yesterday and has no side effects. He's feeling fine."
I didn't get much of a chance to eyeball Zac Lee, but on the few throws I saw him attempt, he looked solid. And he certainly has already attracted the attention of his teammates as a leader.
The loss of starter Ty Steinkuhler at defensive tackle was expected to be one of the biggest defensive holes coming into the season. Pelini has been pleased with the early work by sophomore Jared Crick and redshirt freshman Baker Steinkuhler, Ty's little brother. Development at that position will be critical to help keep opponents from bottling up All-American candidate Ndamukong Suh with double-team blocks.
Senior defensive end Barry Turner appeared a little puffy as he attempts to recover from a broken leg. Turner's return to the lineup has been set back by an ankle injury. "He's back, but it takes a little bit of time to get his football legs back," Pelini said. "He tweaked his ankle a little to start and it can be painful. He's fought through it and done a good job."
Despite Turner's slow start, his teammates are excited about having the senior back in the lineup. "With him returning, it's like we have another starter coming back," Suh said.