Nebraska Coach Mike Riley met with the media in an empty Memorial Stadium a little more than 48 hours before 85,000 fans will pack the place for the Huskers’ 2017 season opener against Arkansas State on Saturday night.
He’s been at this a long time — more than 40 years now — but the routine from here on out remains much the same as it was when Riley started.
“That hasn’t changed for however many years it’s been,” he said. “When you’re dealing with a whole bunch of people — coaches and players and lots of different things — it keeps some new life in the moment. This world is always about people, and it’s always changing that way in my job. Every team forms a different identity, and I’m energized by the formation of a team, the formation of a program, so every day is important to that.”
But don’t mistake routine for boring. The start of a new football season is never that. Just look around a college town at a time like this.
“I’m excited as it gets closer,” Riley said. “You can feel it in the team, you can feel it around town. It’s an exciting time of year to be involved with what we get to do.”
That may stand in contrast to much of the Huskers' fall camp. Nebraska enters Saturday with no new injuries to report, no suspensions and, the ultimate rarity, not much drama at all.
“The idea of what our team did in a very non-dramatic way was a good indication of their intention, sacrificing to do the right thing, to do it consistently because they knew it was important to the team,” Riley said. “I think it gives you your best opportunity to be at your best. It does not guarantee anything. You’ve got to go play now.”
The Huskers finally will on Saturday. Here are a few other notes from Nebraska’s practice on Thursday.
>>Wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. and safety Antonio Reed will not serve any suspension stemming from a May 5 arrest for marijuana possession. Morgan and Reed had those charges dropped after completing deferred prosecution programs.
“Stanley Morgan and Antonio Reed went through an extensive period of time doing what they were supposed to do. And it wasn’t just the extensive time period. What they did, they had to do and spend time with it. So they will not miss any time playing in the games,” Riley said.
>>Mick Stoltenberg will start at nose tackle for Nebraska but the Huskers won’t be afraid to go with an off-speed pitch in the form of true freshman Deontre Thomas.
“Deontre was not necessarily at the time recruited to play exactly that spot for us in our previous defense,” Riley said, “[but] he’s been a very good fit, a very good curveball and we think a productive, good player that should play in the games.”
Third on the Huskers’ depth chart at nose tackle is fellow true freshman Damion Daniels. Riley said the Huskers are still uncertain about whether he’ll play right away or be held out in hopes of redshirting, but he’s been prepared to play, practicing with the defense rather than the scout team.
>>Kickoff for Saturday night’s game is set for 7 p.m., and Riley called the long wait for game time “hard days.” Hard enough in the past that Nebraska is switching up its routine for games with a late kickoff.
“We are going to try something new to handle it as far as more of a dynamic morning rather than just lying around and waiting for the game all day,” he said. “Sometimes you can just get caught in the hotel all day long and not get a breath of fresh air until you walk out to the bus. I’ve always not liked that.”
No word yet on when or where the Huskers will be getting their fresh air.
>>No word yet on who will start at running back for the Huskers either. Riley was asked if he knew who would take that first snap.
“Yes,” he said. “That’s it. That’s the light I’m going to shed. We will start a running back.”
Tune in or show up Saturday to find out who it will be.
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.