LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Playing mostly on raw ability, Randy Gregory led the Big Ten in sacks and was named all-conference in his first season at Nebraska.
Imagine what he could accomplish now that he actually knows what he's doing.
"Randy Gregory hasn't even scratched the surface of what he's going to become, what he's going to be," coach Bo Pelini said after Wednesday's practice. "He's a lot better football player these first three days than he was a year ago."
Gregory starred at Arizona Western Community College in 2011 and didn't play in 2012 because of a broken leg. He showed up in Lincoln not long before the start of preseason practice last year, and by the end of the season he was so impressive that there was speculation he would declare for the NFL draft.
He said it was an easy decision to come back. His knack for fighting off blockers and his remarkable closing speed allowed him to make 9.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss. But he needs polish, and more size, to be an effective run stopper.
NFL scouts like his potential, and he's widely considered the top defensive end prospect for the 2015 draft.
"I love Nebraska. I expect big things from the team and individually," Gregory said Wednesday. "It's going to be real tough for me to decide what I want to do at the end of the season."
Gregory said he already has set season goals for himself, but he declined to disclose them. Linebacker Michael Rose, however, has numbers for Gregory to shoot for.
"I'd say 15, 17 sacks maybe," Rose said. "He can get up there."
If Gregory gets 15 sacks, he'll tie the school record and match 2013's nation-leading number by Stanford's Trent Murphy.
Gregory's priority this spring and summer is to add size to his 6-foot-6 frame. He's generously listed at 245 pounds on the spring roster. He was on a 5,000-calorie diet last summer, but his weight dipped as low as 230 during the season. He doesn't look much more than that now.
"It never ends with me, gaining weight," he said. "That's been the toughest thing for me in the offseason, working on my body and getting it to where I want it."