Here is Saturday's complete notebook breakdown from Nebraska's 12th fall camp practice.
For the second time in a span of three days, Nebraska’s coaching staff has made it abundantly clear that true freshman Tristan Gebbia has the potential to be special.
After offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf revealed that it was far from a certainty that Gebbia would redshirt his first season on Thursday, head coach Mike Riley poured on even more praise for the former four-star recruit following Saturday’s practice.
While Riley said the plan at the moment was more than likely still to redshirt Gebbia, he admitted that the freshman was making that decision more and more difficult with every impressive practice.
“I think that Tristan, by the time we get to the season, would function well in a game,” Riley said. “I really do. Now I don’t think that’s the best thing for him, I really don’t. But we also know that for a purpose we keep that (quarterback) room small. The other side of that is he’s got to be ready. We know that.”
After junior Tanner Lee beat out redshirt freshman Patrick O’Brien for the No. 1 quarterback spot n spring ball, many immediately assumed O’Brien would be the clear No. 2 and Gebbia was bound for a redshirt.
But by running the offense like a seasoned upperclassman and showing a drive to excel that rivals anyone on the roster, Riley said Gebbia was on the fast track towards becoming Nebraska’s quarterback of the future.
“He sees things and then makes the throw,” Riley said. “I’m still to the point where him being a freshman, I’m going, ‘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 cliche, but I think he’s a player. Been real, real impressed with his poise. His work ethic is off the charts. He is up there as much as the coaches. I mean, he is an amazing young man with his diligence.”
To be fair, Riley later added that O’Brien had been playing very well in his own right this fall, including putting together a strong showing in the Huskers’ second camp scrimmage on Saturday.
Even though NU doesn’t have a single quarterback that has taken a game snap as a Husker, Riley said he couldn’t ask for much more for where the position was headed going forward.
“I think we are fortunate at that position,” Riley said. “Here we sit without a guy who’s taken one (game) snap for Nebraska, but I’m excited about those guys.”
Offense shines in Huskers' second Saturday scrimmage
Nebraska held its second major scrimmage day of fall camp on Saturday, and according to Riley, the offense may have gotten the best of the defense.
Riley said the Huskers scrimmaged for right around 90 plays inside Memorial Stadium, spending the day working almost entirely on “critical situations” - high red zone (opponent’s 45-yard line and in), red zone, two-minute drill, etc.
He said NU ran one full-speed drive with the first-team offense vs. the first-team defense that started at the far 20-yard line and finished off the day with more than 20 plays of scrimmaging with the younger players.
Riley said the offense showed much more efficiency in Saturday’s scrimmage work, including some moments he called “snapshots” of the picture they want their offense to be.
In particular, Riley said he was very happy with the run game, the play-action passing off of the run, third-down efficiency and red zone execution.
“I’d say overall there was more efficiency,” Riley said. “There were some snapshots there that looked like the picture of what we want to be.”
Several new faces making big jumps this offseason
As the start of the 2017 season draws near, it’s not uncommon for young and inexperienced players to make a noticeable jump from where they were entering the offseason.
Riley has already seen that light come on for several of his players over the course of the spring, summer and midway through fall camp.
Asked to name some of the Huskers who have stood out the most in that regard, the first player who came to his mind was redshirt freshman wide receiver J.D. Spielman.
“J.D. Spielman’s that guy,” Riley said. “I mean, he has been. Now he hasn’t been practicing, so I’m worried about that. He was making strides every day to look like that.”
Riley then pointed out a couple of linebackers in junior Dedrick Young and sophomore Mohamed Barry as guys who seem like they’ve been with the program forever but are still coming into their own.
“Mo Barry is still relatively young in the program, and he’s elevated a ton,” Riley said. “He’s played so much football for us, we think of him as an old guy, but Dedrick Young is a guy who’s so consistent every day that we know exactly what we’re going to get.
Others Riley mentioned were twin brother defensive linemen Carlos and Khalil Davis, and really the entire tight end position as a whole, especially senior Tyler Hoppes.
Riley also singled out one of the newest Huskers in true freshman wide receiver Tyjon Lindsey.
“I think Tyjon Lindsey today made another step up,” Riley said. “Tyjon just can’t get hampered by not knowing the assignments. When he knows what to do and can play fast, he’s exciting. But when you play tentative because you’re not sure, then that takes away all that ability that you have to be good.
Time running out in running back competition?
The general consensus from Nebraska’s offensive coaches this offseason has been that no running back had separated himself from the rest of the pack to emerge as the clear No. 1 workhorse.
That once again remained the case after Saturday’s scrimmage, and Riley said time was running out for one of the backs to step up before the Huskers concede to the fact that the position will have to be handled by committee.
“I think if that really doesn’t become clear-cut by the end of this next week, then it’s probably a rotation deal,” Riley said.
Sophomore Tre Bryant, junior Devine Ozigbo and junior Mikale Wilbon all bring unique traits to the position, but none have been consistent enough in all areas to lock up the starting job just yet.
At this point Riley he’s still unsure about what the running back depth chart will look like when the season finally kicks off on Sept. 2.
“I have an idea, but it’s not clear,” Riley said.
***Running back Tre Bryant (knee) was back in pads and fully practiced after sitting out on Thursday.
“He looked like he felt good,” Riley said. “He did well.”
***Riley was asked about the comments made by Senior Bowl scout and former NFL GM Phil Savage regarding Lee being a potential high draft pick after this season. Riley said he’s known Savage for a long time and considers him a good friend, and he wasn’t surprised to hear Savage said that.
***Riley said he and the rest of the staff were excited about helping Lee live up to the lofty expectations already set for him by making him as comfortable with the offense as possible.
***Riley said NU would approach next week as the final week of fall camp, and from there the next two weeks would be preparation for Arkansas State.
***Riley said the offensive line “maybe took a step forward” on Saturday. Now the key was making sure the unit continued to take steps forward every day from here on out.
***Riley said right tackle David Knevel had a ton of potential with his size and ability. As long as Knevel can stay healthy, Riley said the senior could be in for a big year.
***Riley said he hasn’t noticed “camp doldrums” at all from his team now two full weeks into fall camp. He said the focus and energy have been good every practice so far.
***Former Huskers safety Matt O’Hanlon was in attendance for Saturday’s practice.