Thursday notebook: No clear picture at No. 2 QB spot
Here is Thursday's complete notebook breakdown from Nebraska's 10th Fall Camp practice.
Just when you thought the competition was settled and done for the 2017 season, offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf went ahead and spiced things up in a big way on Thursday.
While junior Tanner Lee is still the clear starter, Langsdorf said it was much less clear who would be his top backup once the season opener against Arkansas State rolls around.
Even though Lee went head-to-head with redshirt freshman Patrick O’Brien for the starting role this spring, Langsdorf said it was now an even battle between O’Brien and true freshman Tristan Gebbia for the No. 2 spot nearly two weeks into fall camp.
“Not totally clear,” Langsdorf said when asked if there was a clear No. 2 at this point. “I think those guys being as young as they are, they make rookie mistakes. They’ve really gotten a lot of similar reps, and it’s very close that way. So it’s not clear-cut.”
Nebraska practiced inside Memorial Stadium on Thursday and did a lot of situational scrimmage work. While all three quarterbacks had their moments, Gebbia arguably may have been the sharpest of all.
Langsdorf has always stressed that not one practice or game would be the ultimate defining factor in any position battle, and he again said Gebbia and O’Brien both still had their share of work to left to do.
“They’ve both had their days,” Langsdorf said. “They’ve both had good days and then they’ve had some freshman blunders, so we've just got to keep getting them work. I like where they’re at, they just have to be a little bit more consistent day to day.”
- Robin Washut
Blitz pickups, snap exchanges give o-line problems
One of the main talking points in the spring was about the inconsistent play of the offensive line, especially coming off a very rough end to last season.
While the unit has made some good progress this fall, both Langsdorf and offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh said there were still some glaring issues that needed to be addressed during camp.
“Just the overall protection on the stunt game,” Langsdorf said. “That’s a big thing for us, handling all the different movement. Third-down pressures are where they really show up - a lot of movement, a lot of guys kind of milling around and then giving you different looks. That’s easy to do in that 3-4. That’s what makes it tough.”
Cavanaugh said o-line especially had some problems during the third-and-long situational work that NU did on Thursday.
“We didn’t handle the third-down twist game in there with the ‘backer in the A gap and the d-end coming around,” Cavanaugh said. “So that’s what camp’s all about. We’ve just got to keep growing and keep working.”
Maybe the most frustrating issue for the offense came with the problems with the center-quarterback snap exchanges. One botched snap between Lee and center Cole Conrad led to a turnover during the deep goal-line situations.
“You watched it,” Cavanaugh said when asked about the snapping problems. “We’ve got to keep working on it. We’ve got to get that ball up. It’s a two-way street. Both of us are involved. We’ve got to get it going.”
- Robin Washut
Foster steps up under pressure to end practice early
As practice came to a close Thursday, head coach Mike Riley called the team together.
Riley issued a challenge. He had punter Caleb Lightborn step back to the 40 and he called out junior offensive lineman Jerald Foster.
“Riley said catch the punt and practice was over,” Foster said. “We had had I think three more periods, so at least 30 minutes. Coach (Riley) just picked me out and I was like ‘thank God,’ if it’s going to be in anyone’s hands I’ll take it.”
Foster didn’t disappoint, as he ran down the punt after it shanked right to make a clean catch. Junior quarterback Tanner Lee said he was impressed with Foster’s ball skills.
“I was pretty confident, but I didn’t think it was going to come off right like that,” Lee said. “It made it interesting, and you want to make it dramatic, so that was fun. He made a really good catch.”
Diaco's scheme continues to present challenges
One of the interesting things to watch each day in practice is how defensive coordinator Bob Diaco challenges this Husker offense with different looks.
Several of Nebraska’s offensive linemen said seeing so many different looks each day has made them better as an overall offensive unit.
“I feel good about what this offense is bringing,” Foster said. “Offensive line wise we are really trying to get a feel for each other and I think that we have. When it comes down to use figuring out what the defense is doing, the defense as you’ve guys have been able to see, they are doing a whole lot of different schemes and formations.
“It’s just a lot that you have to take in as an offensive line. We are getting used to everything they are doing and Coach (Cavanaugh) says he loves being able to see all the different formations and schemes and things like that, so we are able to learn from them. That will just make the season that much easier.”
The other thing Foster said that has made this offensive line better is competition. Particularly what guys like redshirt freshmen Matt Farniok and Boe Wilson have brought to the table.
“That’s the thing, you need that,” Foster said. “You need guys to be able to push you to be better. It’s really hard to do it by yourself when you don’t think you have anybody that wants what you have. So having people behind you that really want to be a part of the game and really want to help out the team just makes you a better player and it make us all a better core all together.”
Things remain mum on the running back competition
With 10 of Nebraska’s 29 Fall Camp practices now in the book, we still don’t have a good read on what direction things are heading with the running back position.
“They haven’t really told us anything,” junior Devine Ozigbo said. “The rotation switches up every day, and things like that. We really don’t have an idea of who’s where, but everybody is getting some carries and things like that.”
Like everyone, Ozigbo said he would like to have a better idea of where guys stand, but at the same time it’s made the competition better.
“It’s frustrating, but it makes everybody work harder because you don’t know where you are at,” Ozigbo said. “It makes you feel like you are at the bottom, so you have to push every day.”
***Running back Devine Ozigbo said he feels in the best shape of his career right now after a frustrating back injury held him back in a big way this spring. After taking a couple weeks off after the spring game, Ozigibo said he had a great summer of workouts and really cleaned up his diet.
He said the biggest things he stopped eating were his mother’s Nigerian cooking and Whataburger.
***Riley said having so many scholarship receivers out with injuries has made it tough for the offense, but it was nothing new from what they’ve had to deal with in the past.
“We’re going to make some acquisitions off of the waiver wire,” Riley joked. “No, we’re being very thoughtful now. Losing a couple guys, we have brought up a couple guys who weren’t on the 105. We’ve brought them in, and that’s been good for us. It’s saved us numbers-wise.
“It’s a very difficult balance, because you need all the parts to practice all the complete game, and it puts you in a little bit of a bind. It’s always the receivers it seems like every year. We try to do everything to prevent it.”
***Lee said the coaching staff in general has done a good job of keeping the team engaged throughout the dog days of training camp.
“I think Coach Riley has done kind of a good job with the schedule and the rest and the work we are getting with the training staff is great,” Lee said. “(Riley) is harping on having Day 1 enthusiasm. The first day we were here guys were super excited to be here and get camp started. We are trying to bring that enthusiasm every day and translate it to big improvements.”