Photo by Aaron Babcock
Nebraska Football

Riley on Tackling Mandate: 'It Didn't Happen Like That'

November 9, 2017
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On Tuesday, defensive coordinator Bob Diaco caused a stir when he said that before his arrival, a mandate had come down from the Huskers’ administration requiring the players to tackle a certain way and when he got to Nebraska, the tackling was not great. On Thursday, head coach Mike Riley walked that back a bit.

Riley said before the 2016 season, Nebraska looked to the Seattle-based company for a new way to teach tackling with safety as a top priority.

“What we have in football, in general, is we’re always – probably the best way to describe it is – looking for the best and safest way to tackle,” Riley said. “It really started with watching video about Pete Carroll … and we basically hired a group I thought was diligent, they made a presentation to us, then we went forward with it and coached and I thought the basic idea about it was good.”

When Diaco came into the picture, Riley said he had a different idea about how things should be done.

“It’s really just, I think, a different idea about the best way to tackle that still maintains the safety for the player,” Riley said. “I have been, frankly, really impressed with the amount of teaching of tackling that our coaches have done since spring practice.”

Riley said a coach coming in with a new philosophy on how to do something isn’t unique, that it happens everywhere in college football, and that was the case upon Diaco’s arrival. When asked if there was ever pressure applied from above his head, or a demand to do it a certain way, Riley said no.

“No, no that did not happen,” Riley said. “It didn’t happen like that. We all looked into it and with their support we brought this company in.”

When asked if Diaco’s comments could ultimately be hurtful to the program, Riley started to say something but changed course and said what they – as a coaching staff – want to be is honest.

“I think, what we always try to do is be open with who we are and what we’re trying to do,” Riley said. “We’re not going to talk about anything that’s not uplifting to this program and the players in the program.”

Other news and notes

>> Riley updated the Huskers’ injury list ahead of the matchup with Minnesota.

Most notable is linebacker Luke Gifford, who will miss a third-straight game with a hip injury. Riley did not provide an update on reserve linebacker Tyrin Ferguson who has also missed time, but did say that inside linebacker Chris Weber (stinger) has been limited in practice this week and went through a non-contact practice Friday.

Cornerback Eric Lee Jr. remains out with a concussion suffered on Oct. 28 against Purdue.

Safeties Aaron Williams (neck) and Antonio Reed (knee) are both expected to play. Riley said Reed is “good to go,” and Williams had a minor setback during the past week, but is still expected to travel with the team, dress and be available in some capacity, “maybe not on a full-time basis.”

Freshman tailback Jaylin Bradley has also practiced and is expected to be available Saturday.

>> Weather could become an issue in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Saturday, with a forecast that could include either snow or rain. Riley said neither will be an issue.

“The offensive team has practiced outdoors for two days this week,” Riley said. “We had a good session with the offense and defense outside today. We’ll be fine and both teams will be affected in the game if there’s a significant wind. If there’s not a wind that’s more than 10 miles per hour, then it’ll be good weather for football. I’ve played in that climate a lot and it’s always generally about the wind.”

Still, Riley said the Huskers worked with cold and wet ball drills throughout the week to make sure the players are prepared.

>> A week ago, Michigan ran all over Minnesota in a 33-10 win that included 371 yards on the ground. The Wolverines largely relied on gap running in that game and when asked if the Huskers would try the same, Riley said that’s not their M.O., but if it works, they’ll do it to try and find a spark in a rushing attack that hasn’t produced a touchdown since Sep. 29.

“I would say if you ranked our top two running schemes, it would be zone first and gap second,” Riley said. “Hopefully we just get some running game going whichever evolves in the game as the best way to do it. We’ve got to get some runs.”

>> With the trip to Minnesota, redshirt freshman JD Spielman will be returning home.

The slot receiver for the Huskers went to high school in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, and his father is currently the GM of the Minnesota Vikings. When asked if Riley has given any advice to Spielman about how to handle nerves in a homecoming game of sorts, Riley joked he doesn’t try to give him advice about anything so as to not mess up the season Spielman is currently having.

“I haven’t said anything to him really about it,” he said. “I haven’t felt the need to give him a lot of advice. I’m just going to leave him alone and keep playing.”

Spielman has 593 yards on 40 catches this season with two touchdowns and a kickoff return for a score. He currently has 1,154 all-purpose yards this season and sits 105 yards away from the Nebraska freshman all-purpose yards record set by Ahman Green in 1995.

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