Ah yes, everyone, Fall Football is upon us finally.
That was noted with the pre-Fall Camp Press Conference of Nebraska Cornhuskers Head Coach Mike Riley on Wednesday afternoon.
Because he did not speak at Big Ten Media Days, this is the only time that Riley will spill any preseason issues before practices start Thursday.
The one thing that’s consistent is that no season starts with the same dynamics. It’ll be good to start with Football. I really like this team, really appreciate the team, staff, admin, the State. There’s been nothing but great support and excitement for this upcoming year.
Think we had a good offseason, a big bowl game for us that we were fortunate & thankful to be in. Got in the backdoor, but we ran with it. It was important to play good and win for the offseason. This team has had a hungry theme this whole offseason. There is some anxiousness about getting started. There’s lots of leadership, not necessarily speeches but guys who do the right things & good examples for everybody. It’s comforting to being into a second season, the comfort of knowing players better & using their talent to enhance their abilities.
I know everyone transfers that to the Quarterback, but also the Cornerbacks and such, what can they do better. Looking at our team in general, pushing guys into contribute and engage in games. We also have a good Freshman class, finding out who can play. We came up with 5-6 guys and we want to see what they do in the first couple weeks. We’re going to look at a few guys for a couple weeks before deciding on redshirts. If they can play & be factors in games, we’re not going to redshirt. If they only get a couple plays a game, they will not be sacrificed.
On Sam’s death and their mindset:
We’ve talked to a lot of good people with a lot of advice on how they can & will react, there’s no general answer. Lot of it may just depend on how well they knew Sam, Fr didn’t know Sam that well. Reactions to his death will be across the board & they have to respect & recognize on that. What I think about Sam Foltz in the Football part of it, if I can be as happy & enthusiastic about that, he brought a joy to practice every day. He impacted virtually every guy that day. This guy was every guy’s guy here. He could do lifting & conditioning with every guy in this building. My advice to the team is do it the way he did it.
We did a foxhole survey about trust with the team. Sam was one of the most trusted guys on the foxhole survey, which is quite the impact for a specialist. He was the heart and soul guy on this team.
On any tribute for Sam:
A lots of neat thoughts across the state & country for it, you’ll hear about them in a release pretty soon. We’re going to save his locker, sticker on the helmet. Some other stuff we’ll do, I know all of us like to do.
On if Sam would have been a Captain:
I think he would. The voting for Captains through the years, I’ve had to remind them about the specialists, lot of times it’s a talented guy. I don’t think I would have done that with Sam.
On punting duties now:
I’ve waited a while to talk about this. We have Caleb Lightbourn and Issac Armstrong, we’ll have a competition. We’d like to make a decision about it soon, but we’ll open it up to start off. We want to coach them & let them compete, but want to do it pretty soon.
As far as holding, number one thing is finding the guy that Drew Brown will be comfortable with. It could be a punter, Zac Darlington would be a great candidate, Lightbourn could do it but being a true Freshman, it’s the possibilities.
On the team hunger:
Hungry to win, winnng games & championships. My hope is that there are a couple good wins last year to give them confidence & consistency. With the leadership coming back and excitement of what might be, kind of allowed me to say this is a hungry team.
On any emphasis of coaching:
Some of the things we simply have to do better. We need to get big plays offensively, we did okay but we were bad defensively and some of those times, especially at the end of the game. The two factors are turnovers and big plays, and it goes both ways. Give you a chance to make plays, eliminate procedure penalties.
On the optimism at the Defensive Line spots:
We will need continues growth during camp & in the seasons like the Davis twins. They have the greatest upside during the season with work ethic & ability. Kevin Maurice needs to be more consistent. Mick Stoltenberg is healthy, Logan Rath & Peyton Newell now have chances to have 15-20 plays in a game. That’s 6 names that are all viable, we’ll need the growth during camp and the season.
On team health:
Jack Stoll will not start out with the 105 with a wrist issue, Nolan Graham and Jacob Weinmaster with a back issue, they will rehab. Other than that, the rest of them are 105 clear to practice. Includes De’Mornay Pierson-El and JD Spielman.
On DPE and what he can do:
Pierson-El can be full speed off the start. It’s a matter of now practicing him correctly, meaning we have to watch his workload. Being able to incorporate him in the thoughts I had last year is good to have.
On position battles going into camp:
Corey Whitaker had a great spring & competed well, on the edge of starting well. Jalin Barnett was not a starter in spring, but he’s a talented guy. If he shows up better, he can be a starter. Every position may be in that position. Outside Linebacker has become a pretty strong group from last year, Josh Banderas, Chris Weber at the Inside LB, Dedrick Young, Luke Gifford, Michael Rose-Ivey fighting at OLB. Running Back is complicated, but can someone win that job convincingly or is it situationally. The competition will raise this team. WR had a big competition and will go though this Spring.
On the WR/TE group and their full potential:
We’ve had some good receiving corps and individual receivers, this group and Cethan Carter are a good group, this RB group is a viable option for receivers as well. As a group, they can catch some balls, our utilization of them are important.
It helps Tommy Armstrong big time, makes people question coverage to take on Carter & Jordan Westerkamp. Love having those threats.
On the plans with Captains:
We didn’t elect C’s because I didn’t want to limit that leadership in the summertime, right or wrong. Seeing them in the offseason, I didn’t want to limit who steps up. Sometimes when you do that early, other guys take a step back. If you just going through our team by position. I’m also going to get their opinion about what to do.
On the Running Back competition:
We have a good number of players at tailback, with Terrell Newby, Devine Ozigbo, Mikale Wilbon, and a freshman in Tre Bryant with testing and work that he’s done. Bryant and his size may make a impact on special teams.
Fullback, we were fortunate for Andy Janovich for a season, I liked the use of personnel groups with a good FB. That position takes a guy who is a thumper but also a runner on a zone trap/zone read game. Harrison Jordan will get a chance, Luke McNitt will get a look at FB/H-Back, we have to get Graham Nabity in the game.
On emphasizing the run game & practicing it:
We are making a emphasis on running the ball, making a identity. First/10 runs with run but Play Action passes built in, based on the runs you just ran. We have talked about that, TA has the best bootleg action I’ve seen in that. It’s not a definitive answer to that, teams I’ve been with have run the ball well. We want to do it & get the identity of how it looked vs. UCLA. We know how that means physically and compliment that with PA passing. But we also know we’ll have to throw the ball when the time calls for it. We want versatility, but we don’t want to be throwing 45 times a game.
On putting Armstrong into better situations for run/pass:
Some of this stuff will be option plays for TA, more like run/pass options. That’s one of the big things going into the second year, the thought about the QB & how best to use him. I don’t know about running more, but we will be mindful on it.
On Fan Day:
This is a special night, really new to me a year ago. It’s a sign of how much people care and good for our team to get to understand how much they care. We are all in this together, so sharing this evening is great for our team.