The Definitive 2017 Nebraska Football Preview
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

How Tanner Lee Helps the Huskers Handle the Pass Rush

August 03, 2017

LINCOLN, Neb. — The Huskers donned the pads for day three of fall camp on Thursday morning with the media invited to observe the two-hour long practice. The pads may be on, but the players said they didn’t feel too much of a difference from the first couple of days.

“Maybe for the receivers, for people like that it’s different,” junior left guard Jerald Foster said. “I’d say our first day coming out, even when we have helmets on it’s hard-nosed football when it comes to the offensive line and defensive line. We all say we’re going to go soft and then slowly as practice goes on we just keep getting madder and madder at each other and it usually ends up with people still head-knocking.”

Senior wide receiver De’Mornay Pierson-El said practice has “been real since day one.”

The focus this early in camp has been on installation, and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said he has been pleased with what the team has accomplished so far.

“Pretty good carry over [from the spring],” Langsdorf said. “We’ve thrown a lot at them, mostly review and a couple tweaks, but I think for the most part we’ve handled it pretty well. As a group, we’re way further along than the last couple years. I think, experience with some of the veteran guys, we’ve been able to push that thing ahead quickly and it’s looked pretty good.”

>> One position that looked to be a question mark heading into fall camp was tight end. Tyler Hoppes established himself as the starter during the spring, but behind him the position looked to be pretty wide open. On Thursday, Langsdorf spoke highly of what redshirt sophomore Matt Snyder and redshirt freshman Jack Stoll have shown.

“The young group of tight ends I’ve been really pleased with,” Langsdorf said. “Jack Stoll, Matt Snyder, both of those kids have really come a long ways. They’re physical, they’re tough, they’re smart. We’ve been throwing a lot at that group in the two-tight end formations and they’ve responded well. I’ve been really pleased with that. I think Jack Stoll is a little bit more of an on-line, physical guy but he’s proven that he’s got soft hands and he runs pretty good routes. Snyder, I kind of think the same thing about him; he’s got some nasty to him. Both of them have been exciting to watch. I think that group is progressing along nicely.”

>> Tommy Armstrong Jr.’s ability to avoid pass rushers and scramble around in the backfield prevented plenty of sacks over the last few years, but the unpredictability of where he was going to be did not make blocking any easier for the offensive line. Tanner Lee’s propensity to stay in the pocket creates an entirely different dynamic.

“I think that having that consistent pocket and consistent drops and footwork is going to help the line,” Langsdorf said. “Tanner’s good with that; he’s got good footwork, he’s not too deep or too shallow in the pocket. The line knowing exactly where he’s going to be is a huge deal. They want to protect for that launch-point spot. So I think that good footwork by the quarterback will help the protection along with getting rid of the ball quickly.”

>> On Wednesday night, former NFL quarterback and father of Huskers walk-on wide receiver Kade Warner tweeted that his son had fractured his hand. Langsdorf elected not to comment about the report as Coach Mike Riley (who will not address the media until Saturday) normally addresses injuries. Warner was at practice with a brace on his hand.

>> The running back race is wide open with returners Tre Bryant, Mikale Wilbon and Devine Ozigbo all getting reps. However, true freshman and Bellevue West product Jaylin Bradley has caught his coach’s eye as well.

“He’s really athletic; he’s talented that way which stood out to me,” Langsdorf said. “He’s got a ways to go in learning and understanding what we’re doing, but he’s working on it. When he has the ball in his hands, he’s explosive. It’s been fun to see. He’s had a couple really nice runs, caught a screen and came out of the backfield nicely. So he’s done a good job of showing what he has talent-wise and then he’s just got to keep continuing to learn. He’s pushing this group.”

Both Bradley and true freshman fullback Ben Miles are getting a look to see if they can help the team right away before the coaches make any kind of redshirt decisions.

“Any time you’ve got a good football player, they usually can carve out a role for themselves,” running backs coach Reggie Davis said. “Coach Riley is big on that, guys finding a niche, finding something they can do extremely well and us finding a place to put them in there so they can use that niche to help us win games.”

For both freshmen, special teams will play a significant part in their ability to earning playing time.

“Coach Booker does a great job of trying to get the best guys out there and Jaylin’s working in there so we can see how he fits in there,” Davis said. “And he’s in the mix there at running back right now; we’re trying to see what is going to happen with him.”

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