Mark Banker Out as Huskers' Defensive Coordinator
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Huskers Expect Stiff Test for Volunteers on Both Sides of the Ball

December 14, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. — Bowl preparation rolls on for the Nebraska football team and on Tuesday, it was the coordinators’ turn to step up to the table to speak with the media.

“Bowl prep has been good,” offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said. “You get a chance to work with some of the young guys and give the veterans a little bit of a rest, and then back at it so I think guys get kind of rejuvenated a little bit and then you get to see some of the young guys in our system which is fun.”

The biggest question hanging over the team in advance of the Music City Bowl against Tennessee is the state of the quarterback position. Langsdorf said they’ll have better idea of who will be available soon, but as of now Ryker Fyfe is getting all the first team reps with quarterback turned slot receiver turned holder turned quarterback again Zack Darlington running with the second team. Starter Tommy Armstrong Jr. is dealing with a hamstring injury he re-aggravated against Iowa, while Fyfe is recovering from a broken bone in his wrist suffered against Maryland.

“[Fyfe] is still coming off of that wrist so he hasn’t even taken a snap under center,” Langsdorf said. “The stuff he does he’s not able to take a true snap, he just holds the ball. I thought he’s done a really good job of preparing. He’s thrown the ball well.”

Fyfe hasn’t been told he will start, but like he has been since Armstrong first got injured he is preparing as if he will play.

“It feels a lot better now,” Fyfe said about his wrist. “I’ve rehabbed it a bunch and iced it and everything, so I get a lot more movement in it.”

Fyfe said he injured his wrist during the third quarter on senior day against Maryland, his last start. Fyfe said he rolled out and threw the ball sidearm style and landed on his left wrist.

“The ref comes up to me and was like ‘Is it OK?’ and I’m like ‘Nah, I think I broke it,’” Fyfe said. “And then I started laughing. I went to the sideline and they asked me, and I was like ‘I think I broke my wrist.’ They’re like ‘Nah, a sprain.’ And I’m like ‘Well, this sprain kills but OK.’ And then I just went back in.”

If Fyfe is indeed the starter against Tennessee, Langsdorf said they will adjust the game plan to play to his strengths.

“We’ll try to kind of cater to what he’s comfortable doing,” Langsdorf said. “He does a really good job with a lot of the action stuff and finding some of those throws down the field off of some actions that we have. I thought he did that really well in the Maryland game. I think just kind of building on that is something that we’d like to do with him.”

If Armstrong has any hope of playing in the bowl game, Lansdorf said he will have to return soon, although he did not give any sort of timetable. He said it is hard to go in and play without at least a full week of practice.

The Huskers are still early on in their Tennessee preparation, but Langsdorf gave a breakdown of what he saw from the Volunteers on defense this year.

“I think their struggles came from injuries and I think they’re getting guys back because they look good to me,” Langsdorf said. “They’ve got some really talented players. They’ve got an outstanding defensive end that would fit well in this league similar to the kid from Illinois [Dawaune Smoot]; he’s a dominant pass rusher. They’ve got an All-American corner that’s very good, a cover guy. They’ve got a stable of linebackers that can run. They’ve got a D-tackle that is a force inside … Their defensive speed is as good as anybody in our conference. We’re going to have to slow them down. They’re a very good pressure team. They play man coverage and cover well. So it will be a tough game for us on our side of the ball.”

Defensive coordinator Mark Banker also gave a rundown of what he sees on tape from the Tennessee offense.

“They’re very talented,” Banker said. “They’ve got big offensive lineman – they’re strong, move well. Kind of a strange deal happening, what was it, seventh game of the season? [Jalen] Hurd, their top running back, leaves the team but yet the two other backs that have seen most of the action since then are very, very capable. In fact, in some cases they’re even a little bit different because Hurd was a big tall kid, powerful runner. These guys, they’ve got power but a little bit better in the push, in zones they’re more patient, but at the same time they can really stick a foot in the ground. So they’ve got speed but they also are quicker in their breaks. Quarterback, everything goes through him … He does a good job in their offense. It’s a read zone offense with some power game in there as well. He’ll run off the edge with the ball, drop back pass, he’s always a threat to take off and scramble as well as designed runs. A good corps of receivers, a couple tall guys – there will be some mismatch type of things, But all in all it’s just a real solid group. I think inconsistency at times has gotten them at times. I think the other thing that’s gotten them during the course of the season … is injuries.”

Quarterback Joshua Dobbs will be the focus for the Blackshirts as they try to slow down the Volunteers.

“He’s a runner, so keeping him contained is going to be a big part and not letting him get those big plays with his feet …” freshman defensive tackle Carlos Davis said. “He is a big guy, probably one of the bigger guys we’ve faced, but when he gets out in the open he can move for a big guy. He might look deceiving on film, but he’s fast.”

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