Mike Ekeler believes Cody Glenn will be much more than a token, capable or even good linebacker.

The Nebraska linebackers coach thinks he'll be great.

After less than three weeks on defense after three years as a running back, fans got their first glimpse of Glenn at linebacker, and the senior impressed spectators with several solid plays, including a takedown of former position mate Marlon Lucky in the first half of Saturday's spring game.

Glenn's quick ascension at linebacker and his performance this weekend has convinced Ekeler of the athlete's high ceiling on defense.

"I want people to look back on his career and say, 'He was a running back?' because he really is that good at linebacker," Ekeler said.

While Glenn may have benefited against Lucky and other Nebraska running backs by training alongside them in previous years, the projected starter at weakside linebacker has other attributes that will aid him in his transition.

With a 4.5-second 40-yard dash, Glenn is Nebraska's fastest linebacker. Additionally, his offensive knowledge has lent itself to digesting the concepts and schemes of the defense.

And having a stocky, strong build is certainly an advantage.

The hype surrounding Glenn was matched by his final statistics, in which he tallied three tackles - two unassisted - plus a sack.

Glenn wasn't the only linebacker to make a strong impression. At a position weakened by the loss of its top four athletes from 2007, new faces stepped into big shoes hoping to fill them.

"I think from front to back, there's enough talent there with a lot of new things being thrown at them," NU Coach Bo Pelini said. "Obviously the consistency is not there yet, but the effort is there. ... Every day, I see that indecision going away, and confidence is growing."

"We'll get there, but it's a process."

Drawing a final word from an exhibition is speculative at best, but Nebraska appears to have several capable options, one of them being Nebraska walk-on Tyler Wortman.

After four seasons in the program, working his way from the bottom up, Wortman was given an opportunity to prove himself this spring. Less than one month later, he's a starting linebacker and coming off a spring game performance in which he racked up six unassisted tackles, one for loss.

The senior-to-be also picked up a forced fumble and recovery on the first play of the game - an option pitch he knew was coming but was supposed to allow.

So much for that. Even Wortman will tell you he doesn't deserve any credit for the play.

"I kind of messed it up, I guess," Wortman said. "I was just supposed to play the quarterback, and I got up there, and I guess he just didn't pitch it soon enough, so I swatted at the ball and got a piece of it. I don't know how happy the coaches are with me about it."

What Wortman can take credit for is the progress he's made in the offseason, focusing on his footwork and improving his lateral ball movement.

Ekeler said the walk-on has learned how to distribute his weight to make him quicker at changing directions on the field.

For Wortman, being given an opportunity and capitalizing on it has been a dream come true.

"Coming in, having a new coaching staff and a new defense, you kind of are skeptical at first," Wortman said, "but then we really bought into it, and I'm looking forward to the fall."

jonathancrowl@dailynebraskan.com