Buford’s energy, efforts caught the attention of the coaching staff

However Marked Buford was among the youngest defensive backs on Nebraska’s roster, it’s safe to say the now-sophomore safety was accumulating lessons from his older teammates.

Buford’s effort — selfless effort, as coaches call it — puts him firmly in the running for a bigger role this season in the Nebraska defense, as Husker’s staff look to fill three new starting roles in high school this season.

“Buford, his efforts are second to none. That’s what he brings to the table. That’s what he decided he wanted to do. That’s what he can control, that’s his effort. A guy that gives you effort like that, you gotta find a place to put him,” defensive backs coach Travis Fisher said this week.

Fisher gave a simple example of how Buford’s efforts can pay off for a team. A teammate forces a fumble that a player running hard for the ball can catch and take advantage of for a key turnover. These are the types of plays, Fisher said, that Buford has a knack for making.

“You make a lot of plays and help this team just by putting in the effort,” Fisher said.

Buford has caught the eye of teammates and coaches since joining Lincoln in January 2021. He suffered a knee injury in his first spring that required surgery, but he returned in time to play in the 12 Nebraska games as a rookie, mostly on special teams. Buford had three tackles and saw time on defense against Buffalo and Fordham.

A Cam Taylor-Britt favorite, now with the Cincinnati Bengals, Buford moved from corner to safety last spring and found himself in the mix for a bigger role.

“I feel like I’ve been riding since spring,” Buford said. “I made sure I had mental reps over the summer. I haven’t lost sight of my work or anything like that. I had a pretty smooth transition to fall camp.

“Every day we fight. It’s a friendly battle. There is no animosity between us, but we know we have to go out and work hard every day to get the starting job. It’s everyone’s behavior. No one has a place right now, especially in a room with Coach Fish. He does not distribute anything to anyone. Everything must be earned every day.

Buford is again playing in several special teams units and said he has responded to Fisher’s coaching style, which emphasizes keeping players – even veterans – uncomfortable every training day.

“There’s never a time when you can be too comfortable, too nonchalant because at any moment you could lose your job with the snap of a finger,” Buford said. “Coach Fish wants its best, most ready guys on the court at all times.”