Depth chart, scholarship and captain decisions are still on the way, but Coach Mike Riley did share after Tuesday’s practice that senior wide receiver De’Mornay Pierson-El will get the first shot at returning punts this season.
“We all love De’Mornay and what he can bring,” Riley said. “We also have to have other guys trained. I think Tyjon Lindsey is a natural; I think he could go back there. We know Stanley Morgan is very reliable and can make big plays for us. We’re pretty versatile, but De’Mornay will be the initial guy.”
Riley said he has begun handing out open scholarships to current walk-ons, but he will not announce who received them until they finish the process. Riley also said the team will likely determine captains over the upcoming weekend.
Riley also isn’t ready to call the running back battle because they players have made the decision so difficult.
“I actually think the three guys that are healthy right now — Tre Bryant, Mikale Wilbon and Devine [Ozigbo], throughout camp, have been fairly consistent and flashed as good players throughout,” Riley said. “They’re making it difficult. The other guy, before he missed a few days with the ankle, Jaylin Bradley has really flashed also. All I can say is we’ll have it by the first of the week, probably in a depth order, but I’m telling you there’s not a big operator there right now.”
According to Riley, junior nose tackle Mick Stoltenberg returned to practice on Monday as planned and has had no setbacks after missing most of the last week of practice while going through concussion protocol.
As the Huskers transition from fall camp into game prep for the season opener against Arkansas State, Riley said the team accomplished a lot during Tuesday’s practice.
“I think we had good work,” Riley said. “This was a pretty long day for them I think, but I thought the ending period was enthusiastic and good work which is a good sign, kind of an indicator of how they’ve been lost all the time. It’s good stuff.”
>> Riley spoke highly of the combination of Marcus Newby and Luke Gifford at the field outside linebacker spot and how the two handled splitting reps throughout camp.
“I think that’s been a very good tandem to go through camp with,” Riley said. “That was orchestrated by Coach Diaco and Coach Bray; they did a nice job with those guys sharing that position through camp. We think they’re both good players.”
On the other side, the Huskers are a little less certain with Alex Davis, a converted defensive end, taking the first team boundary outside linebacker reps. However, Davis has embraced his new position and the opportunity it has provided him to evolve as a player.
“Every day I step out here, I learn something new,” Davis said. “Just the feel of the game, a lot of times you talk about stuff in the meeting room but until you actually do it you don’t get a real feel of it. Every day I step out here I learn something.”
Davis is hoping the limited snaps he got last season as a redshirt freshman will help prepare him for an expanded role this year.
“I think it’s going to help me prepare a lot,” Davis said. “When they called on me, I was always ready to go out there and go my hardest. That’s what I did; every rep I got last year I went 100 percent. That’s the same type of mentality I’m going to have this year too.”
>> Up front, Riley said the team needs junior Freedom Akinmoladun to be more than just a solid starter.
“We’re looking for Freedom to be one of those guys that is a difference-maker for us,” Riley said. “He’s played quite a bit of football over time. He’s a fabulous worker. Very good intentions in everything that he does. So we all just anticipate his growth in the games.