SAN DIEGO - The boot focus has shifted.
Nebraska starting safety DeJon Gomes sat out of Tuesday’s practice while wearing a protective boot on his right foot.
“He’s OK; he’s fine,” Cornhuskers head coach Bo Pelini told reporters after the workout.
Nebraska (10-3) plays Washington (6-6) on Thursday night at Qualcomm Stadium. Pelini, when asked if Gomes will be ready for the game, said, “There are no issues there.”
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Nebraska senior wide receiver Niles Paul, who suffered a foot injury before the Colorado game Nov. 26, has been practicing this week and said Monday he’s almost fully recovered.
“Every day gets better and better,” he said.
Paul ranks second on the team with 39 receptions despite missing the last two games. Gomes, also a senior, ranks second on the squad with 93 tackles.
Pelini was asked to assess Gomes’ NFL chances.
“What guys are looking at him as is a safety, a guy who can kind of do a lot of things,” Pelini said. “There are a lot of people who think he’ll be really valuable, and I agree. It all depends on the team and type of system we’re dealing with. A lot of teams like him more than others.
“He’s played up close to the line for us, but I think he’ll be more of a safety at the next level.”
Pelini didn’t hesitate when asked if Taylor Martinez will start at quarterback.
Yes, the redshirt freshman will start, Pelini said. It’ll be Martinez’s 12th start of the season.
Pelini sounded as if perhaps the break from games since the Dec. 4 Big 12 championship loss to Oklahoma has benefited Martinez, both physically and mentally.
“As you get into a long season, you go through a lot,” the coach said. “I mean, Cody Green’s been through a lot, too. It gives you a chance to step back, evaluate and hopefully think about all the experiences you had and let it make you better over time.”
Martinez was one of college football’s breakout stars through the first half of the season before suffering an ankle sprain, one of several injuries that have limited him since late October.
Pelini, however, was upbeat about Martinez’s recent progress.
“What kind of gets lost in the shuffle a little bit is that this guy’s a freshman, a first-year starter,” Pelini said. “He’s been through a lot. He’s learned a lot. And all those experiences are going to make you better and stronger. Hopefully, over time, that’s the case with Taylor.”
EKELER’S LAST DAYS
Although it’s been business as usual this week for Nebraska linebackers coach Mike Ekeler, Pelini said, he understands if Ekeler is fighting emotions. After the bowl game, Ekeler will start his new job as co-defensive coordinator at Indiana.
“You want your guys to get better opportunities and to move on,” Bo said. “He’s been with me for seven years total. He’s been a valuable part of our staff. But it’s time to move on now for him, and we’re happy for him.”
As for Ekeler’s replacement, Pelini said he has a list of prospects in mind “ But I haven’t done anything with (the hiring process). It’ll be a while before I do.”
Nebraska players attended a Navy and Marine corps luncheon and toured the USS Ronald Reagan nuclear-powered supercarrier ship ... Martinez spent extra time after practice working on his passing with a team support-staff member ... Nebraska secondary coach Marvin Sanders gave each of his senior defensive backs a hug after Tuesday’s workout.