The Nebraska Cornhuskers had their pre-Spring Practice press conference today at Memorial Stadium. Here are the highlights of the presser. Riley was followed by new DL Coach John Parrella, followed by Player Personnel guy Billy Devaney.
Certain players came to the podium, we'll have that later.
I got the jist of each statement and had them down for you here.
Head Coach Mike Riley:
Opening statement: Excited with the "second go round with Spring Ball". The new season started with the completion of the bowl game, the team played their best football of the last month of the season. Have to do better with muscle injuries, have to spend more time preventing that. Looking to be fundamentally better in all three phases of the game. Good fundamentals are important during Spring ball, looking to play better football within the frame of what you do. Better idea of the direction on what we need to do. The way that we won that last game (UCLA) can't be exactly what you do, but you have to have a good vision on what you need to do.
Depth chart is in place, 120-ish on that. 4 deep on some spots, which is good. We will practice on two fields like we did before last year, it's the best way to get a look at the players. The numbers are great at Nebraska, but you have to get creative to coach them up. You want to get something done on the first day, but you can't really because you're in shorts.
Outlooks on QB's: Number 1 question is the QB rotation. Tommy gets the first turn with Ryker behind him. The other group will have Zack Darlington, A.J. Bush and Patrick O'Brien. We can rotate any of those 3 with the first 2 when necessary. It's a residual bonus to practice with 2 teams and 5 Quarterbacks, because with one field and team it's pretty hard to do.
On depth of QB chart: Five QB's is ideal, what you want to try to keep it at. Smaller makes you nervous or lack of development. Other part is having too many guys and it waters down what you want to do in games and it hurts development.
On the Offensive Line: Corey Whitaker and Tanner Farmer at Right Guard. Jerald Foster and Jalin Barnett at Left Guard. Nick Gates at Left Tackle, David Knevel at Right Tackle. Going to rotate a few players at Center, Dylan Utter will start with Zach Hannon and Michael Decker rotating in. Paul Thurston has a class that will keep him from practice, has to find a way to get him involved.
On Running Backs: Liked how Terrell Newby and Devine Ozibgo finished the year, liked the rotation that we had in the end of the year. We will see how Adam Taylor does at that position now he's healthy, anticipating the depth building up if these guys keep coming and developing.
On run/pass ratios: Wants to be more productive with running the ball without needing to call more running plays. Offense needs to be more productive running the ball week to week. This is what we're going to be week to week, no matter the opponent.
On the running game plan vs. UCLA: We had a good plan vs the Bruins, we didn't invent any new plays but our variety was better. We want to have a Tailback oriented running game, but the QB and WR has helped out here big time and added something good for us.
On a second Spring and less transition: It's hard on players, the guys who recruited them are gone. However, we had to learn about each other through adversity. Looking back on it, everybody kept going and went to work. Nobody lost their minds, it could have been a catastrophe. We played our best ball in the last month, and it says a lot about both the players and the staff. It built trust which helps.
On winter conditioning: Every day that goes past, we have a chance to go forward. Feels like that vibe has taken over in the weight room. The questions of who these people are are disappearing and it's more comfortable.
On the Linebackers: Trent Bray has done a outstanding job with a group not deep or experienced. Guys developed like Chris Weber who earned a scholarship with his play when Josh Banderas was hurt. Marcus Newby became a reliable guy, Michael Rose-Ivey got better. Dedrick Young played more snaps on our team than anyone on our team, now a veteran that gives you stability. Luke Gifford is getting healthy. We're 4-5 deep for Spring ball including redshirts.
On Luke Gifford: Day to day, can't tackle but can go pass skeleton and team non-contact drills. He will be able to maybe play in the Spring game, we'll make a decision closer to then.
On Ivy League not tackling in Spring ball: It's always good for a conversation. There are going to be more and more rules surrounding that and it's not a bad thing. We rarely tackle during the season, so it wouldn't be a drastic change during the prep week.
On Nate Gerry's ejections: That last call on him (in the bowl game) is now a national topic and used for referees. I think we have to help define for players what is/not legal. 10 years ago, that's a good form tackle. They missed the call, but Nate is a physical player. Nate's approach to the game is similar to what we're doing for everyone on the team.
On the Bily Devaney hire: We were talking about a hire like Billy's months ago. Shawn Eichorst wanted a veteran area focusing on evaluation & recruiting athletes. Billy has been a GM and played a part in operations, staffing, looking at the big picture of an organization. Lot of different projects in football, like 11am kicks and how can we be better during the week, morning of the game. The more heads you have studying it, odds are better for coming up with a better idea.
On Safeties: Avery Anderson is going to play Safety with Nate. With Aaron Williams being hurt, he can flop with Kieron Williams.
On Patrick O'Brien: More knowledge of what we're doing like patterns, protection, protection, the process of it all. He has now a extra half-year for processing it all.
On the hype with O'Brien: On the outside, we have to contain it with the work Keith Mann does, but we can't control it. Not a big deal on the inside, he's got the same expectations here as everyone else, nothing more.
On injuries: Mick Stoltenberg & Kevin Williams out for spring. Lavan Alston will be limited in full-speed and skeleton. Demornay Pierson-El will be out for spring.
On Linebacker: Greg Simmons will play both inside and outside Linebacker spots.
On going down to Florida or such for Spring Practice: Haven't really thought about it too much. Time demands are a big thing, we have these kids a long time during the season. That is a expensive mood, housing & meals & travel and such for everything for a few practices.
Defensive Line Coach John Parrella:
Opening Statement: Things have been great, been trying to get up to speed and ready to go.
Coming back to Nebraska: It's a great opportunity and we're ready to go.
On the interview: A typical interview, felt it went extremely well. Excited to be here and part of the program.
On coming back in his coaching career: Any former player wants to come back to coach his college, they develop you on and off the field. A no brainer.
On being a throwback to Nebraska Football: You can't help it, Coach Riley has helped that. Anything I can do to help these guys get ready to go I will do.
On the biggest challenge: Get them fundamentally ready to go.
On getting back to that championship level: Get bettter, in the weight room, get the players.
On installing toughness: Day in and day out thing. Just got to get them fundamentally sound. More than just one short answer.
On how close he watched Nebraska as he coached: Where ever you go, you know what they are doing.
On with Riley and his time with the Chargers: Great guy, called him about this job and the place I love. Had a great relationship with this staff.
On if he's talked to Tom Osborne: Have not caught up with him yet, hoping to do so soon.
Executive of Player Personel Billy Devaney:
Opening Statement: Drove out here Friday from Atlanta, my excitement has only gotten that much stronger. Just really thankful for being here.
On the job title: Like what Riley said, kind of like a Swiss Army knife. Involved with a bunch of different areas and projects that Mike has. It's a fun thing, a newness that you're not doing the same thing. Thought it was a great opportunity.
On why college now: I was here in August, spent the weekend here with the staff. Mentioned that, when Riley called about the position, he didn't have a name but for himself.
On his last name and Nebraska: Visited with Bob back when I was scouting, talked about where he was from and the last name.
On his background and recruiting: These guys doing the player personnel doing the job here is fantastic. First and foremost, I don't want to screw anything up. You look at football players, not for a team. Anything I can pass along, I will.
On challenges of a 16-17-year-old vs. 25-year-olds: It's tough, just that much tougher. You try to project 4 years down the road instead of looking at that projection.
On the roster: I got to take the time to learn the roster inside and out to help Mike.
On when he's learned about the job: I learned about it Thursday but it was finalized Thursday. Wasn't sure how fast it was going to go.