Week three of fall camp is in the books and the Huskers will move to the game-prep portion of the calendar this week in the run up to the season opener against Arkansas State.
But before we get there, Hail Varsity writers Jacob Padilla, Derek Peterson and Greg Smith offer some thoughts on the week that was.
This week we got some clarity in one area, while still searching in others. The offensive line is now set with (left-to-right) Nick Gates, Jerald Foster, Cole Conrad, Tanner Farmer and David Knevel getting the first crack at being the starting unit. I still don’t know what’s most important for the line this season. Is it health, development or coaching? Figuring that out is still the most important factor to 2017 success in my mind.
It was nice to see positive remarks from the Big Ten Network guys during their stop to Lincoln. They quickly picked up on the added enthusiasm and urgency around the program which is a great sign for the future of the program under Mike Riley.
The great running back conundrum continued this week with Tre Bryant missing some time with knee trouble before resuming practice. I still believe he’s the most complete back of the bunch but the other guys are not making it easy on him. We should get some more insight this week into the Tristan Gebbia-versus-Patrick O’Brien backup quarterback battle which, to my eye, Gebbia is winning.
This was the last true week of fall camp for the Huskers as the next two weeks will be spent more on game-planning for Arkansas State than on pure scheme installation or other preseason work. With that being the case, Riley and his staff are closing in on the deadline for a few key decisions.
One of those is who will serve as team captains. Riley has yet to clarify how many the team will have or what the selection process is. However, if we’re guessing who will fill those roles we can start with the players who were selected to represent the team in Chicago during Big Ten Media Days. I’d be surprised if Chris Weber and Tanner lee were not among the captains when Riley announces them. One of Aaron Williams or, perhaps more likely based on seniority, Joshua Kalu might be in that group. Mick Stoltenberg would likely represent the defensive line. Drew Brown could be that guy on special teams. Gates could join Lee from the offense.
Another key decision would be which true freshmen will play right away and which will redshirt. Through three weeks of camp, it’s clear to see that Tyjon Lindsey is going to play a big role this season. Avery Roberts has earned his way into the two-deep starting back in the spring and will play a role on special teams and as a sub on defense. Deontre Thomas has gotten first and second team reps at nose tackle with Stoltenberg missing some time. Guy Thomas is still with the third team at boundary outside linebacker but certainly has the look of a player who is ready to contribute if neither of the guys ahead of him can nail down that spot.
All of this should be cleared up by next week as Riley said on Friday that those decisions are coming soon.
Guys like Lindsey impressed again (shocker) and the Big Ten Network squad loved Lee, but I thought the defense had its best week of camp.
Just in the live drills we saw Thursday, Bob Diaco’s defense was in control. Had the defense been able to touch Lee, he would be feeling some pretty heavy hits right now. Diaco was dialing up different pressures and coverage schemes that had the offense — the line in particular — looking flustered. It’s probably too early to question the offense, considering this is the first time we’ve really seen the defense dominate and line coach Mike Cavanaugh wasn’t pleased with the intensity his unit played with, but it’s definitely a positive the defense is figuring things out and getting after it.
One more thing. I might be wrong, but any time a team gets an entire day off during fall camp, I think that’s a positive sign. Nebraska got that this weekend. The Kendrick Lamar tickets were cool, but Riley gave his team an entire day off, telling me one of two things: either they’re in a good spot in terms of preparation for the season, or they’ve shown Riley enough to warrant a day off. Regardless, I took it as a good sign.