OMAHA, Neb. – Like last year, it might take a while for a Nebraska player to hear his name called in the NFL draft.
Offensive tackle Lydon Murtha and defensive lineman Zach Potter head the list of draft candidates, with running back Marlon Lucky, receiver Nate Swift, quarterback Joe Ganz and guard Matt Slauson projected as free agents.
The draft begins with the first two rounds Saturday, followed by the third through seventh rounds Sunday.
At least one Husker was drafted by the fourth round every year from 1963 to 2007. Last year it took until the fifth round for the first Nebraska player to be taken — cornerback Zackary Bowman.
The 6-foot-7, 306-pound Murtha said he's done all he can to put himself in position to be drafted. He recorded the fastest 40-yard time among all offensive linemen (4.89 seconds) at February's scouting combine in Indianapolis, and he was first among linemen in two other drills.
"There are teams wanting a very athletic guy, because you can't teach athleticism, and then there are teams that want players with really good film," he said. "Hopefully, they can look past some of my injuries and see I can play some good football."
Murtha, who is from Hutchinson, Minn., missed four games his junior season with a toe injury and four more games his senior season because of injuries to a knee, shoulder and foot.
He said teams have given him countless magnetic resonance imaging tests and that each one has been clear.
"The injuries I had before are nothing that would hinder my future play," he said. "What they (NFL teams) told me was they look for injuries that are going to be prolonged in your playing career. They don't want anything that's going to affect you down the road, and I don't have anything like that."
Murtha said about 10 teams have spoken with him, and he had individual workouts with the Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers and New York Giants in addition to workouts at the combine and his pro day in Lincoln.
He said he most recently visited the Dolphins and sat down with their coaches and football operations chief Bill Parcells. The Dolphins are expected to draft an offensive lineman or two in the late rounds.
"If I get drafted by them, that would be a cool deal," Murtha said.
Potter said he thinks he could be drafted as high as the middle rounds, or he could sign as a free agent.
"It's hard to predict," he said. "You hope to hear your name at some point Saturday or Sunday."
The 6-7, 280-pound Potter was second on the team in tackles for loss (16) and sacks (5.5) and ranked near the top of the Big 12 charts in both categories among defensive linemen.
Potter said he believes he showed up well at the combine and on his pro day.
"Everything that happened at the combine was good for me, from the interviewing to the defensive-line testing drills," Potter said. "At pro day I was able to better my times. I've done everything I can to hopefully impress some teams and have them take a chance on me."
Potter said 15 to 18 teams have spoken to him.
"It's hard to pinpoint where I might go, because there are so many teams and they're not showing their cards," he said.
Potter said he'll play golf Saturday rather than watch televised draft coverage. He plans to spend Sunday with family and friends in Omaha.
"I'll go to church, get some lunch and start watching it," he said.
Lucky will be in his hometown of Los Angeles this weekend and, like Potter, he'll try to keep his mind off the draft.
"I'll probably lounge around, sit back and relax and watch a movie or something," he said.
Lucky said it might be best for him to take the free-agent route to the NFL rather than being drafted in the seventh round. A free agent is able to choose the team he signs with, which can give him a better chance to earn a roster spot.
The 6-0, 215-pound Lucky returned to Nebraska in 2008 after seriously considering declaring himself eligible for the draft after his junior season. He has said he regrets the decision, but he hopes strong showings at the East-West Shrine Game and the combine override a senior season that saw him run for 517 yards — half his production in 2007.
Lucky said he's well-suited to be a third-down back in the NFL. He caught a school-record 75 passes in 2007.
"Hopefully, they see my hands as a great weapon," he said. "A third-down back can pretty much do everything. Let's hope they see my junior film and see what I can do."