Fall Camp continued for the Huskers on a hot and sunny Friday morning at Memorial Stadium and Coach Mike Riley said the team got a lot done during the roughly two-and-a-half-hour practice.
“We had a good mixture of a lot of things,” Riley said. “We had some red zone offensive drives, we had an opening drive, we had a plus-40 yard, we had a minus-1 drive, we had a couple periods where we competed on moving the chains, getting a first down with second down included. We had another period where we’d get the drive started with a first and second down to see if we could get to an advantageous third down situation. We did some special teams that were not live but were full speed until the tackle. We did a lot of stuff today.”
The starters plus a handful of key second-teamers did not tackle to the ground on Friday, spending most of their time on the situational drills. However, the reserve units did have what Riley called a “full-fledged scrimmage.”
With just over two weeks until the season-opener, Riley said the team got a head start at developing some game-like organization.
“We tried to put some game components in,” Riley said. “We put the coordinators in the box, did all the stuff that we would normally do on the boundary to have sideline organization. Normally we wait until next week to do that but we incorporated it into this weekend which is good because it wasn’t necessarily real clean. There is a lot of stuff that we can work on. The game components of the play clock and all that, we’ve got work to do there, substitution, still stuff like that that has to be eliminated. So we not only had a lot of football, we had some good procedural stuff that has to be worked on.”
With almost three full weeks of going against each other in the books, Riley is cognizant of potential burnout but said he thinks the shift to more game-planning will help keep the players motivated.
“I’m thinking that when we get past tomorrow, the change of pace of what we’re going after will be energizing to the team,” Riley said. “We’ll start looking at their game film. We’ll start putting our game film and stuff in place. So all the stuff we’ve been doing will now gain a new real purpose, what this is all really about. I’ve really appreciate this team’s consistency in this camp … But it’s a grind and it’s just a routine and rhythm.
“They’ve stayed the course as good as any group I’ve ever been with. It’s been impressive. There were not hardly any distractions and not many glitches, and I say not many — less than a handful, whether it was a sleep in or missed breakfast kind of a deal, and that was the extent of it; it wasn’t anything that would be on the ticker. I’ve appreciated this group a lot and I’m thinking that has a chance to pay real dividends in what this thing is about.”
Riley said this year’s preseason has been the most camp-like setting the team has had since he’s arrived in Lincoln because of the way the players’ schedules worked out.
>> Junior nose tackle Mick Stoltenberg has missed about a week of practice with what Riley said was a head injury. He is in the concussion protocol and Riley expects him back at practice on Monday so long as there isn’t a setback.
Junior wide receiver Bryan Reimers also missed practice on Thursday but did some individual work on Friday, though he was not allowed to suit up fully and don his helmet.
Sophomore running back Tre Bryant, who was another scratch from Thursday’s practice, got some work in on Friday but did not participate in any live periods.
>> With two weeks left of camp and classes beginning on Monday, Riley and his staff have some decisions to make this weekend.
First of all, the Huskers have some extra scholarships to hand out to current walk-ons, and with a handful of walk-ons figuring into the two-deep at this stage, Riley said he will narrow down that list by next week.
“We have not finalized anything yet,” Riley said. “We’ve met on it three or four times, had our list in front of us, have not finalized it.”
The Huskers have as many as eight scholarships to hand out, although Riley did not say he would use all of them.
“We have to be careful numbers-wise and people-wise; we have to do the right thing,” Riley said.
The time to make a decision about redshirts is drawing nearer as well, and Riley said they have a list of guys they think will play immediately, but nothing has been finalized yet and the coaches will also discuss it over the weekend.
Tyson Lindsey, Brenden Jaimes, Deontre Thomas and Avery Roberts are among the true freshmen that seem to have worked their way into the two-deep during fall camp.
Riley also said the team should determine captains by next week as well.
>> Though Stoltenberg has sat out the last few practices, Riley said he is encouraged by the growing depth he is seeing at nose tackle. Peyton newell and Khalil Davis have both practiced at that position at different points during camp and true freshman Deontre Thomas is making a strong push as he was the one who took Stoltenberg’s snaps with the first unit on Thursday.
Riley praised Thomas’s quickness and called him a good change of pace guy from the other case tackles.
>> Cornerback has been an area of concern ever since Chris Jones suffered his knee injury. Lamar Jackson, Eric Lee Jr. and DiCaprio Bootle have emerged as reliable options, but Riley is still searching for depth.
“With Chris not being there, the defensive backfield is pretty thin of guys … We need another couple guys to surface in there — Eric [Lee Jr.] obviously and Dicaprio Bootle, obviously; those are three,” Riley said. “We need some other guys now. Jeremiah Stovall, Tony Butler — and Tony was moved from safety to corner, and what I’m saying is that looks like a positive move.”
Butler was one of Riley’s defensive standouts from Friday’s practice, and he also praised Avery Anderson.
“Avery started elevating himself in the spring and continued to do that in fall camp … He’s in that mix, so it’s made us feel better about [that position],” Riley said.
>>Bob Diaco and Danny Langsdorf will both be calling games from the booth, a slight departure from previous seasons, but that doesn’t bother Riley.
“I definitely talk to them about it and leave it to them in some regard,” he said. “Coach [Mark] Banker liked the sideline, and Coach Diaco immediately asked
about being in the press box. I think that’s good; I suggested to Danny a
while back that the press box is the most sane place to call a game.”
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.