Husker notes: Young Huskers exuding confidence as Nebraska takes step forward with Saturday’s scrimmage

Husker notes: Young Huskers exuding confidence as Nebraska takes step forward with Saturday’s scrimmage
World-Herald News Service

LINCOLN — Nebraska conducted a 90-play scrimmage Saturday full of the same “critical situations” that composed parts of Thursday’s practice. Riley said NU worked on third-down, red zone and “high red zone” plays — those start around the opponents’ 40-yard line — and mixed in a few drives. Unlike Thursday — when the offense struggled at times to deal with NU’s defense — Riley liked what he saw.

“The efficiency of running the ball was pretty good, the play-action part was pretty good, third-down efficiency looked good at times and then you get down to the red zone, make a nice move, make a good touchdown pass; looked good,” Riley said. “There was some stuff like that.”

Nebraska’s offensive line, Riley said, took a good step Saturday. He wants more good steps taken.

Throughout spring practices and training camp, Riley has praised his quarterbacks. He continued to do so Saturday, noting the progress of starter Tanner Lee, two “great drives” from redshirt freshman Patrick O’Brien, and Tristan Gebbia’s play.

Riley told his staff Friday night that he didn’t get the impression the team has struggled with “camp doldrums.” Coaches are asking players to have “first-day enthusiasm” each day of camp.

“I’m really impressed,” Riley said. “I really like this team. We have had no drama in our camp. It’s been low maintenance. It’s been a good picture.”

Lee personifies the team’s attitude.

“There’s not a bunch of drama with him — high, low, goofy, crazy, mad, happy,” Riley said. “And I like that about him. Nothing much rattles him. I think he likes the process. He likes the work — which, for me, is the key. Guy’s got talent, likes to work, give us that every day. That’s a beautiful thing.”

Young players making jumps

Wide receiver JD Spielman didn’t practice Saturday, Riley said, but the redshirt freshman had consistently made jumps and was an example of a young player exuding more confidence. Other players in that category: linebacker Mohamed Barry, linebacker Dedrick Young and defensive line twins Carlos and Khalil Davis.

Freshman receiver Tyjon Lindsey made a jump Saturday, Riley said, and needs to keep developing. The key for Lindsey, Riley said, is to know his assignments so he doesn’t play “tentative.”

“Tyjon just can’t get hampered by not knowing the assignments,” Riley said. “If he knows what he’s doing and can play fast, he’s exciting. But when you play tentative because you’re not sure, that takes all that ability you have.”

Mike Riley ‘real impressed’ with Tristan Gebbia as true freshman makes case to be Huskers’ backup QB

LINCOLN — While playing as a true freshman wouldn’t be “the best thing for him,” quarterback Tristan Gebbia has impressed coaches so much during the first half of training camp that they’d consider pulling his redshirt if needed.

Gebbia will be game-ready by the start of the season, coach Mike Riley said. NU’s starter is Tanner Lee, and the ostensible backup was redshirt freshman Patrick O’Brien. Comments on Saturday by Riley and Thursday by offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf indicate Gebbia and O’Brien are competing for the backup role.

Riley had high praise for Gebbia on Saturday.

“Vision,” Riley said when asked what he liked about the 6-foot-3, 180-pound Gebbia. “He sees things and makes a throw. And I’m still to the point where, him being a freshman, I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, that was a good play.’ It’s one of those things.

“I just think he’s a player. I know that’s an old cliché, but I think he’s a player. Been real, real impressed with his poise. His work ethic is off the chart. He’s up there as much as the coaches. He’s an amazing young man with his diligence.”

Riley said O’Brien played well, too, on Saturday, saying he engineered two “great drives.”

The Huskers are in the midst of replacing four-year starter Tommy Armstrong.

“We are fortunate at that position, and here we sit without a guy who’s taken a snap at Nebraska,” Riley said. “But I’m excited about those guys.”

Quick hits

» Running back Tre Bryant (knee soreness) returned to practice Saturday. Riley said no clear No. 1 has emerged from the three-back pack of Bryant, Mikale Wilbon and Devine Ozigbo, and, if no one does by the end of next week, Nebraska will embrace more of a rotation.

» After Senior Bowl Executive Director Phil Savage tweeted praise for Lee on Saturday, Riley said he appreciated Savage’s opinion. Savage worked briefly as an intern for Riley in the World League of American Football before taking a job with the NFL’s Browns. When Savage left, Riley used the vacancy to hire protégé and current Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst.

Savage has “seen a ton of people,” Riley said. “That’s not a surprising comment to me about Tanner. That stuff is out there like that. We’re just looking forward to helping (Lee) really be comfortable and use that ability and play.”

» Riley was asked about the progress of senior right tackle David Knevel, who started for most of last season before inconsistent health sidelined him. Riley said Knevel has had a good camp and the 6-foot-9, 315-pound Canadian has big potential.

“He needs to challenge himself to reach that level of what he’s really, really capable of,” Riley said, “because I think it’s really high.”

» NU offered a scholarship Friday night to 2018 athlete Dallas Craddieth, a three-star safety and wide receiver from suburban St. Louis who has offers to Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Vanderbilt and Minnesota, among others. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound player from Hazelwood (Mo.) Central told 247 Sports on Friday night that NU wants him to take an official visit to the school during the season.