Nebraska opens practice Monday, and the start of camp is all about numbers for highly touted Huskers junior defensive end Randy Gregory.
The biggest number is "248½," which is his weight. He played at 240 last season. The other number is "4," which will be his uniform number this season. He wore 44 last season.
Both numbers have significance.
One of the biggest knocks on Gregory, who led the Big Ten with 10.5 sacks last season, was his lack of bulk, and he is trying to rectify that. Last season was his first with the Huskers after transferring in from junior college, and while he is an accomplished speed rusher, he needs to show more of a repertoire this season. He also needs to stand up to the run better, and he hopes the added weight helps in that regard.
"He's more physically developed than when we first got him," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said at last week's Big Ten Media Days event. "He's continuing to get bigger and put meat on his frame, and as he continues to do that, I think you'll see a more well-rounded player."
Pelini also called Gregory "a tremendous talent. He has great instincts. He has great get-off, a guy who can really rush the passer. I think he's only scratched the surface of what he's going to be down the line."
As for the new number, he said Friday during the Huskers' media day that he wanted to wear No. 5 but that it belongs to senior cornerback Josh Mitchell. So he chose No. 4, which used to be worn by a star Husker who now is a star in the NFL.
"Lavonte David wore it," Gregory said. "He did real well in it. Sprinkle a little bit of his gifts on the jersey and help me out this year."
Gregory also said Friday that he purchased a disability insurance policy but not to take that as a sign he already has made up his mind as to whether he will turn pro at the end of the season.
"It's something to make sure I'm safe,' said Gregory, who signed with Purdue out of high school in Indiana before running into academics issues and making a junior college detour. "I haven't really given it much thought of what I'm going to do at the end of the season. ... I'm kind of trying to see how it goes at the end of the year, how I feel (then) and what we have coming back."
Gregory said he is fully focused on the task at hand.
"It's tough, but one thing for me is (avoiding) social media," he said. "I have Facebook, I kind of have to, but I don't have Twitter, Instagram. Everyone always begs me to get one, but one of the big things for me is to kind of try to stay away from all that stuff, the newspaper articles and all the things like that. I think it helps me stay level-headed and humble, and hopefully it helps me come out this year and play even better."
That likely appeals to Pelini, who said he told Gregory, "It's not about stats and statistics; it's about developing yourself, playing fundamentally sound, doing the things that you need to be successful on every down."
"It's just kind of neat to see it knowing how close I am to that goal," he said. "Just trying to picture myself up there is kind of hard, but hopefully I get that chance to be able to do that someday."
Gregory heads into the season acknowledged as one of the top three or four ends nationally, in a group with Clemson's Vic Beasley (who will be an outside linebacker at the next level), Michigan State's Shilique Calhoun and USC's Leonard Williams (who also can play tackle). Beasley is the only senior among the quartet; the others are juniors.