It’s been a rough season for Nebraska when it comes to injuries, which is something head coach Mike Riley addressed following Thursday’s practice. While the injuries have made it difficult to find a rhythm in some ways, Riley also acknowledged his staff and players have done a nice job adjusting.
“The continuity has been hard,” Riley said. “I’ve been kind of proud how the coaches and the players have held it together. People have stepped up. I wouldn’t say we’ve been dynamic offensively. It’s been a tough year in some regards statistically. Some are better. Some not so good. I think for the most part, we’ve held it together pretty well and we have yet to play our best game.”
Once Nebraska is past the Music City Bowl, Riley does plan to sit down and evaluate 2016’s injuries. He’ll look for patterns and anything that might stand out for the Huskers to take note of for the future.
“We’ll kind of evaluate that when we’re all done,” Riley said. “I haven’t noticed what I thought is a rash of one thing in particular. We will look at it again. We usually do that. It’s interesting to do. I think we’ve changed things every year thinking that way, off-season training, practice habits a little bit.”
A big reason for Riley’s injury discussion is the just announced loss of wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp for the Music City Bowl. It’s something that Riley said was non-contact and didn’t look like much at the time it happened. It just panned out to be much more.
On to more news and notes from Thursday’s practice:
>> Quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. is also expected to be out for the bowl game, which means Ryker Fyfe has been taking snaps with the first team. Riley has noticed that Fyfe’s confidence has really started to grow since Iowa, which is great news for the team if Armstrong is unable to play.
“Ryker has looked really good to me,” Riley said. “Really sharp, playing well. I’ll tell you what is noticeable to me is confidence. He’s just playing and making plays, making a lot of nice throws. We have mixed it up more than ever. I’ve never used quite this pattern in bowl practice where we are literally one day practicing against Tennessee, using scout teams. Then the next day, no scout teams, competing ones against ones, rotating those days like that.
“It’s been good and it’s been good for Ryker. It’s good for everyone to have those speed days practicing like that. It’s been fun to practice that way and it’s been fun to watch him grow in confidence.”
>> Riley was also clear that he’s making sure not to overwork his players to hopefully prevent further injuries. He intends to give the players rest days to keep them from getting worn down.
“At the end of each of these weeks, they get two days off so once we get past tomorrow, they’ll get two days off then we’ll practice five days and they’ll get two days off, then we’ll practice four days. I’m thinking that’s going to be good.”
Riley also said he plans to limit the on-field time once Nebraska gets to Nashville.
>> Riley didn’t want to talk too much about the future, but the bowl practices have provided a good look at the young talent Nebraska will have for 2017.
“We’ve got better young guy work this year in general and we’ve had good practice this year in the bowls,” Riley said. “I hate to single anyone out but the two quarterbacks [Tanner Lee and Patrick O’Brien] look good and then there are some receivers that look good too. If I start talking about names, I’m really excited about a lot of those names. Offensive lineman, defensive lineman, it’s a pretty good group. They’ll enter in very well in spring ball.”
>> Will Riley be watching the volleyball team take on Texas? You bet.
“I’ve not seen a deal quite like the game we won coming back like we did the other day,” Riley said. “I’ve not been in an environment [like that] because I wasn’t able to go but everywhere you went inside the stadium, the dining hall, the player’s lounge, coaches’ offices… Everybody’s watching that game. When we won in that third set, you could hear it in the whole stadium. It was pretty neat. It was fun.
“That team is a great example for all of us. I love following that team.”
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.