The Huskers moved practice over to Memorial Stadium on Thursday morning and opened the practice up to the media as the team split the time between scrimmaging, position drills and situational work.
The bad news of the day was an injury update provided by Coach Mike Riley after practice, but the highlight came right at the end as the Huskers wrapped up about half an hour earlier than normal thanks to junior guard Jerald Foster.
Riley gathered the team together about an hour-and-a-half after practice began and challenged the 6-foot-3, 310-pound Foster to field a punt from Caleb Lightbourn. Despite a difficult punt by Lightbourn, Foster stepped up to the challenge and pulled in the ball on a dead sprint toward the sideline.
“I was going to be responsible if we were going to keep our practice going,” Foster said. “We had it felt like 30 more minutes to practice but he was like ‘Jerald, if you can catch this off the 5, you guys can end it.’ So I was like ‘thank god.’ Then Caleb, he just gives me the hardest punt he possibly had and pushed me to the side, but it’s all right. I was happy to be able to help the guys out.”
Legends live forever.@JeraldFoster coming in clutch today.
— Nebraska Football (@HuskerFBNation) August 10, 2017
After practice, offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf offered his evaluation of the day’s action.
“We got some more situation work in,” Langsdorf said. “We were in a tough situation, that third-and-long deal, and we didn’t execute great on that. I thought we did some good things coming out in that backed up area that we had, but we had one turnover there that was kind of ugly. It was good work for us; we got a lot of different situational work, whether we’re in the high red zone or coming out of third down, all that stuff has been really good work for us.”
>> Sophomore running back Tre Bryant was on the list of players who missed practice, but Langsdorf said he isn’t worried about the tailback.
“He needed to get his legs back a little bit, just a little bit beat up but nothing major,” Langsdorf said. “We’ll do that occasionally with a guy or two and say ‘OK, today let’s slow him down a little bit.’ That’s all that was today.”
>> One noteworthy observation from practice was that redshirt freshman Boe Wilson got most of the first-team reps at right guard in place of junior Tanner Farmer.
“He’s a physical player,” Langsdorf said about Wilson. “We love his athleticism in there. He needs work, he needs the reps … He has gotten some good work and he’s battling with Tanner Farmer in there at that right guard position.”
Foster, the established starter at left guard, is a fan of Wilson as well.
“He’s a good player,” Foster said. “He understands what is needed to be done. He understands his role on the team and that he needs to be able to push us to be able to be better players. I feel like Boe’s going to to get some playing time I hope, I really do. The way that he’s been able to showcase himself throughout the 10 days that we’ve had, I really do feel good about what the O-line is and just the push that we’ve all had.”
Langsdorf did highlight a few areas the offensive line needs to improve in as camp rolls on.
“I think just the overall protection on the stunt game,” Langsdorf said. “That’s a big thing for us, handling all of the different movement. The third-down pressures are where they really show up, a lot of movement, a lot of guys kind of milling around and then giving you different looks, and that’s easy to do in that 3-4, that’s what makes it tough is identification. So we need some work there. And then consistently running the ball. That’s always a focus, making sure that we can get positive yards, we’re not giving up any free hitters. And just the overall consistency of protection and gaining ground in the run game.”
Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh has said that he welcomes the burden of making the offense go for his unit, and junior running back Devine Ozigbo said he is seeing progress.
“They’ve definitely improved on their focus and IDing people and things like that,” Ozigbo said. “They’ve definitely shown steps to have the game on their backs. Pass protection has been great and running the ball, holes have been bigger than ever. I definitely think they’re making strides.”
>> With the injuries, freshman walk-on wide receiver Christian Banker and redshirt freshman walk-on tight end Brandon Hohenstein got the call-up to join the 105-man fall camp roster.
>> Limited numbers at wideout is something receivers coach Keith Williams and the Huskers are far too familiar with at this point after suffering injuries at the position every year in Lincoln.
“We just keep moving on,” Williams said. “You can’t predict injuries and you don’t know when guys are going to get nicked up or whatever, so you just move on. That’s why everyone is responsible for knowing the plays and knowing their jobs in case of those types of situations.”
Williams highlighted walk-ons Gabe Rahn and Brett Classen as two of the less experienced receivers who have impressed him so far.
Freshman wide receiver Jaevon McQuitty has been in Lincoln for less than a year but has already suffered two major setbacks, first a shoulder injury during spring and know the knee injury that has knocked him out for the year.
“You just encourage him, like you would with anything else, you just encourage him and just make sure that he knows that you support him and you’re going to be there and things are going to bounce back when he’s healthy,” Williams said. “He went through a somewhat extensive rehab for his shoulder so he kind of understands it.”
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.