Nebraska football is back at practice this week after beginning bowl preparations late last week. Tuesday’s practice includes media availability, which means we should get an update on the status of Tommy Armstrong Jr.
Last Friday, Mike Riley said that Armstrong wasn’t practicing and that Nebraska was “going forward as if Ryker [Fyfe] is going to start.”
Has anything changed over the last four days? Husker fans will be anxious to find out. Count the Tennessee Volunteers among those also interested in what’s happening at quarterback, or at least one Tennessee columnist is.
John Adams of the Knoxville News-Sentinel wrote this week that the Huskers questions at quarterback and lowly ranked offense in general should “evoke euphoria” for an even more lowly ranked Tennessee defense (109th nationally, allowing 460.2 yards per game).
Facing the Huskers is a heckuva lot better than facing Oklahoma — Tennessee’s likely matchup had the Vols not lost to Vanderbilt — with all of its offensive weapons.
My best guess: Oklahoma would have scored somewhere between the low 60s and the low 70s on Tennessee’s bend-and-break defense. In fact, it might have made a run at the record-setting high of 76 that Vanderbilt hung on the Vols in 1918.
The Vols have no such concerns now. And the possibility that Armstrong either won’t play or won’t be at full speed is further cause for Tennessee to be optimistic.
Given Tennessee’s defensive shortcomings, its matchup with Nebraska is a godsend.
It has been a strange season at Tennessee, and that is a strange column. It’s not wrong. The Vols would probably feel better facing Fyfe than Armstrong because that would be the case with any backup versus the first-stringer.
But euphoric? A godsend? That’s just one columnist’s prescription, but man does it feel like a long way from the SEC-East-favorite talk from four months ago.
Bama to Boca
I have to admit I was having a hard time understanding Lane Kiffin’s move to become the head coach at Florida Atlantic. The program just completed its 15th season of football, the first four as an FCS member or a provisional FBS member. In its 12 seasons as a full FBS member, FAU has had a winning season just twice (2007, 2008), had four different head coaches over that span and won just 16 games total over the past five seasons.
Seemed like a less-than-perfect destination for a coach that some say has brought Alabama’s offense up to date, a characterization I’ve never fully bought. When you consider the Tide’s talent and cadre of support staff (guessing FAU won’t have any offensive analysts), a lot of coaches probably would’ve had some success with Alabama’s offense. Still, if Ed Orgeron really was dangling LSU’s offensive coordinator gig, why wouldn’t Kiffin go there? There’s no way he would make less money as the Tigers’ OC.
According to this report from USA Today‘s Dan Wolken, Kiffin landed in Boca Raton because it was one of the few places willing to take him based on conversations with multiple sources, speaking anonymously, in the industry:
Though Kiffin frequently exaggerated other programs’ interest in him to those inside the football facility at Alabama, he only came close to getting one job — Houston, which had him as a finalist but chose Major Applewhite instead — before landing at FAU.
As it turned out, Kiffin’s cavalier attitude toward pushing boundaries in his one year at Tennessee, the train wreck ending at Southern Cal plus questions about his personal maturity (Kiffin’s divorce earlier this year didn’t help matters) had all conspired to leave such a negative impression on the industry that administrators largely shied away.
Though Kiffin’s name was brought up for multiple jobs across the last three years, nearly all of it was speculation and smoke rather than genuine interest in him. One person with knowledge of the matter, who had investigated Kiffin for a job, said reference calls to people who worked at USC and Tennessee basically rendered him unhireable.
Just not at FAU. Something tells me this probably isn’t going to work out. Or, rather, everything tells me that.
The Grab Bag
- Yes, Nebraska had its first decommitment from the 2017 class on Monday. You can read Robert Porcher IV’s statement on the decision here, hear what his father had to say about it here, and check out how might be next on the list for Nebraska here. (Last one’s premium.)
- According to multiple reports, Youngstown State could be without four players for its FCS Playoff semifinal this week after the players tested positive for an unidentified substance.
- Good preview of the Final Four from ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel, who does great work on the volleyball beat.
- Some quick observations from Tennessee’s practice on Monday.
Today’s Song of Today
Look at the giblet gravy.
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.