Coach Mike Riley met with the media following Saturday’s open practice, sharing details on the future of Nebraska’s special teams. Since firing Bruce Read, the Huskers have split up the special teams coaching assignments between assistants. That will continue going forward, with Riley setting a goal to install the basics of the punt formation, field goal formation and field goal block before spring break.
“I think that to this point right now today, it’s been pretty smooth,” Riley said. “I think that having a veteran kicker is a good thing for us in that fashion. We are going to add more and more to what we do on the punt team as we go but the foundation of what we wanted to do has gone in fairly well. I feel okay about it at this time.
“Just about everybody on our staff … Everybody has a part and so we divided it. A lead person for that team will be Coach (Trent) Bray and will be assisted by Coach (Bob) Elliott and Coach (Tavita) Thompson.”
Riley also added that defensive coordinator Bob Diaco will handle the punt team, offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh will handle punt protection, Bray and defensive line coach John Parrella will handle field goal block and Elliott will handle punt return.
On to other news and notes from Saturday’s practice:
>> While Tanner Lee took snaps as the first team quarterback on Saturday, Riley was clear that Lee and Patrick O’Brien are simply rotating. While Lee was with the first team today, O’Brien will be with the first team at the next practice.
Both quarterbacks looked sharp on Saturday. Lee had a big pass to Bryan Reimers, while O’Brien completed an impressive pass to Stanley Morgan Jr. Both were enough to make the visitors and media in attendance gasp.
“It’s been a really good week,” Riley said.
>> Linebacker Luke Gifford has a club on his left hand, which is the result of breaking a bone in his hand during Thursday’s practice. He will have it for the rest of spring practice.
>> Marcus Newby missed practice on Saturday, but did so for a good reason. Newby became a father Friday night.
>> Diaco has unveiled a new motivational tool for the defense. He has painted 40 gold footballs and plans to present one at the end of each week to the top “pass disruptor.”
>> Riley said that while the Huskers lack depth at receiver, he likes the group and is particularly pleased with what he’s seen from his returners Morgan and De’Mornay Pierson-El.
“Stanley and De’Mornay both look at the top of their game to me,” Riley said. “Stanley really looks good and confident. He’s like the veteran player out there. De’Mornay looks physically the best I’ve seen him since I’ve been here. So that’s a good picture.”
>> Freshmen wide receivers Jaevon McQuitty and Keyshawn Johnson Jr. are continuing to sit out of practice. McQuitty is recovering from having shoulder surgery in December, while Johnson is still recovering lingering effects from appendicitis. Riley wants both to fully recover, but would prefer to have both participating.
“It’s too bad because you know these guys didn’t graduate high school early to come and just watch spring ball,” Riley said. “It’d be great to have them be practicing.”
>> Walk-on I-back Wyatt Mazour – from Albion, Nebraska – has been particular impressive to Riley so far during spring practice. In fact, Mazour reminds Riley of another Nebraska native.
“He’s Danny Woodhead,” Riley said. “That’s what I keep thinking when I watch Wyatt.”
And Riley is personally familiar with Woodhead. He coached him in the Hula Bowl after Woodhead’s final season at Chadron State. When asked if he would have offered Woodhead had he been at Nebraska then, Riley said yes.
Erin is the Deputy Editor and Digital Marketing Strategist for Hail Varsity. She has covered Nebraska athletics since 2012, which has included stops at Bleacher Report, Cox Media Group’s Land of 10, and even Hail Varsity (previously from 2012-2017). She has also been featured on the Big Ten Network, NET’s Big Red Wrap-Up, and a varsity of radio shows nationwide. When not covering the Huskers, Erin is probably at Chipotle.