They played together two years ago in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Abdullah, who leads Nebraska with 1,089 rushing yards and eight touchdowns this year as a sophomore, played cornerback and had two interceptions in the game.
“He didn’t know where he was going then,” Herrera said. “He was a good DB. I just knew him at DB. He made big plays at DB. I didn’t know he could play offense.”
The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Abdullah, from Homewood, Ala., was viewed by most schools at a cornerback because of his size.
“Nebraska recruited me for the position I wanted to play, which is running back,” he said. “They were the best fit for me.”
He had a brother who played in-state at Auburn and he said the Tigers liked him as a cornerback. Auburn and Alabama didn’t offer him until late in the recruiting process.
He knows fans in Alabama are passionate about the Crimson Tide and Tigers, but said Cornhusker fans may be more excited about their team.
He points to 50 straight years of sellouts at Memorial Stadium.
“That’s a testament of what these fans bring to our program,” he said.
He’s watched film of Alabama rushing for 350 yards against Georgia in the SEC title game.
“They’re susceptible to the run, but I know they can also stop the run,” Abdullah said. “We can’t go in thinking they let a lot of yards rushed on them on the ground. We can’t just think we’re going to walk in and run the ball on them. We’ve got to come off the ball and get good push from our o-line. We’ve got to run hard and finish our runs.”
Herrera and his Georgia teammates will be trying to stop Abdullah and senior Rex Burkhead, who was limited to seven games this season with a knee injury.
“He’s a really big kid, he’s good,” Abdullah said of Herrea. “He’s grown a lot since I’ve seen him. It’s going to be fun playing against some people back from the South, people you knew in high school.”
Football and family for Bobo
Bowl games aren’t entirely business trips for coaches.
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo brought his wife and five children with him to a city that boasts Sea World, Disney World and Universal Studio.
Meetings are scheduled early in the morning before the team practices.
“Then I’ll have some scripting to do, then try to catch up with them” Bobo said. “It just depends on how much my wife can take before I get there. They’re going to do something every day and they’re definitely excited about it, that’s for sure.”
Bobo’s parents are also in town to help care for the kids.
“My dad, he’ll look like he practiced today when I see him tonight,” Bobo said. “He’ll be limping around.”
Jones getting back in mix
John Jenkins and Rodney Garner are gone, but Abry Jones is back on the Georgia defensive line.
Jones was in a regular jersey on Thursday as the Bulldogs practiced at Celebration High School in Kissimmee, and looks on track to play for the first time since Oct. 20 against Kentucky.
Jones missed the final six games after undergoing ankle surgery. He did scout team work on Thursday.
Brandon Wheeling, a former walk-on defensive end for the Bulldogs who now holds the title program coordinator for the defense, worked with the defensive line during positional drills that were open to the media, but defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is overseeing the unit after Garner joined Auburn’s staff. Jenkins didn't make the trip due to academic issues.
This and that
Malcolm Mitchell said he never had a conversation with Mark Richt before the coach said the sophomore is staying at receiver, where he’s played primarily since starting early in the year at cornerback. Mitchell wanted to concentrate on offense. “It is good to settled in at one spot and focus on that,” Mitchell said.
Tailback Richard Samuel (sprained shoulder) practiced in a non-contact jersey. Offensive lineman Austin Long was working on the side wearing a “club” on his surgically repaired right hand.
Nebraska center Cole Pensick missed Thursday’s practice at Freedom High School – the Cornhuskers first in Orlando – because of an illness. He had yet to arrive in town yet, but is expected at practice this morning. Pensick is expected to start in place of injured Justin Jackson, who started 12 games this season before sustaining an ankle injury in the regular season finale against Iowa. Mark Pelini, nephew of Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, also is expected to play center. “We feel good about both those guys,” Pelini said. “Plus it gives us the flexibility to have Cole move out at guard at times, too.”
Georgia held its only full pads practice in Orlando – a two hour workout – on a windy Thursday. The temperatures were in the mid-40s at the start of practice.