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Mike Riley News Conference Recap: Tanner Lee Gives NU “Best Opportunity to Play Well”

In order to bench a struggling player, you have to have an alternative available. That may be easier said than done.

Northern Illinois v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Mike Riley began this week’s news conference by recapping the injury status of the team after the Rutgers game.

While Conrad could be ready to play, I think Michael Decker on Saturday showed he’s an upgrade over Conrad.

Likewise, I think Nebraska found alternatives that are just-as-good, if not better at those positions Saturday.

Considering that Bryant’s knee has held him out the last week, it would seem unrealistic to think he’ll get the majority of ball carries moving forward even if he plays.

It’s all moot until he’s cleared to practice anyway.

Some spotlight players from the Rutgers game?

Now, about that offense: it sounds like Mike Riley may be joining Team “Run The Ball”. When asked about the passing game, it sounds like he wants to do it less now.

Again, another reason to keep Decker in the lineup.

So then we get to the elephant in the room: why not bench a struggling Tanner Lee? It’s not quite as simple as some fans (and media guys) think:

There’s a key point in there that’s worth digesting a bit. Let’s think back to 2011 when Bo Pelini was roundly criticized by some fans (and a World-Herald features writer) for not benching Taylor Martinez after some rough play against Wisconsin. In order to bench a player, you have to have a replacement player available who you feel won’t be significantly worse. Without naming names, Riley is making it clear that he believes a struggling Tanner Lee is still a better option for Nebraska than playing Patrick O’Brien (who hasn’t taken a snap in a game since high school) or burning Tristan Gebbia’s redshirt. (And if you think that nobody could be worse than Lee has been, I offer the name Joe Bauserman as an example.) And since we haven’t seen O’Brien play, we really have no choice but to accept the coaches’ assessment of the situation for now.

Lee knows he has room to improve, and has to.

There’s that Decker guy again, for what it’s worth...