Thursday notebook: Reilly, Gerry suspended; Grim transferring
Head coach Mike Riley was the bearer of bad news following Nebraska’s full-pads practice on Thursday.
With the Huskers now just over a week away from their 2016 season opener, Riley announced that two key starters would be suspended against Fresno State.
Senior wide receiver Brandon Reilly, who was arrested for DUI back in March, and senior safety Nate Gerry will both be forced to miss the first game of the year for what Riley called a violation of team rules.
On top of that, Riley then confirmed that freshman wide receiver Derrion Grim had left the team and would transfer to another school.
On the suspensions, Riley declined to go into any specifics, but he noted that Reilly and Gerry both would only be out for one game.
Nebraska’s wealth of wide receiver depth makes losing Reilly for a game an easier blow to handle, and given his incident this spring the news didn’t necessarily comes as much surprise.
Gerry, however, leaves a notable void in NU’s secondary. Defensive coordinator Mark Banker said he still hadn’t decided on who would replace Gerry in the starting lineup, but said the two safety spots in the base defense would be filled by some combination of Aaron Williams, Kieron Williams or Antonio Reed.
“I haven’t told them specifically as to who will step on the field right now, because they are all quite close from a standpoint of the order,” Banker said. “Bottom line is all three of those guys will play in the game.”
Maybe the biggest loss Nebraska will suffer from Gerry’s temporary absence will be as the leader of the defense on the field.
Banker said Gerry and the Huskers would get through the situation and move on from it in time, but that didn't mean his mistake wasn’t a disappointing development.
“It’s not frustration. A little disappointment to an extent,” Banker said. “I know he’s disappointed as well, but this too shall pass… I look forward to getting him back in the fold, because No. 1 he’s a good person, No. 2 he’s a good leader, and he plays his position well.”
Riley was very short in discussing Grim’s transfer, saying he had no further information as to what led Grim to leave.
When asked if Grim had received a full release from his scholarship with Nebraska, Riley said: “What (Grim) told me last night is he thought at this time it looked more and more like he was going to go to junior college, so he doesn’t need a release to do that."
- Robin Washut
Defense shifting more to Cover 3 scheme
Nebraska’s defense has made a philosophical switch over the off-season. A year ago, the Huskers were more a Quarters defense, something that Banker ran while he was at Oregon State.
The schemed relied heavily on creating pressure up front and corners winning one-on-one coverage situations.
This year the Huskers have employed more of a Cover 3 scheme, that takes pressure off the corners and gives them less one-on-one coverage situations. They ran some Cover 3 at times a year ago, but not near as much as they’ve shown early on in camp.
“We were more of a quarters team that turned around and looked at the man,” cornerback Chris Jones said. “It was more lock down and go get them
“It takes a lot of pressure off us just staying on a man the whole time. Now we are able to look at the quarterback and see what he’s doing and make plays on the ball.”
Secondary coach Brian Stewart thinks running more Cover 3 will be a better fit for his guys in the long run.
“I just think every now and then the corner is going to need some reprieve,” Stewart said. “I think playing a Cover 3 and mixing in some other stuff kind of helps them with that.”
Davis, King emerging at defensive end
Nebraska’s defensive ends still have a long way to go before removing themselves as one of the biggest concerns facing the defense going into the season.
But as fall camp comes to a close this week, a couple players have at least helped make the Huskers feel a little more confident about the group.
While sophomore Freedom Akinmoldun and Ross Dzuris have locked up the two starting spots, Banker hinted that redshirt freshman Alex Davis and sophomore Sedrick King have made big strides since the end of last season.
In particular, both players have excelled in putting consistent pressure on the quarterback during Nebraska’s two-minute drill work.
“Alex Davis is somebody, along with Sedrick King, that have really stepped up their game,” Banker said. “Alex all the way from the understanding - and I suppose Sed too - of what’s required of them down-in and down-out.
“They’ve really showed up well when we’ve gone these two-minute periods from a standpoint of just pure pass rushing.”
- Robin Washut
Huskers back to using regular practice refs
One of the big changes we’ve seen at Nebraska’s practices this August is the Huskers have gone back to using practice referees.
This was something a year ago NU did not use in practice on a regular basis. Before last season, Nebraska used Big Ten and Big 12 officials to ref nearly every practice and flag the Huskers on mistakes being made. It’s been a welcomed addition by the coaching staff to have the refs back.
“It’s been great, especially when we’ve been doing the 2-minute stuff with them spotting the ball and winding the clock and stopping the clock and doing all those things,” Stewart said. “That’s big time. It helps the tempo for the players to see how the tempo of the game is going to be played.”
Defensive line coach John Parrella agreed, as it should go long way in helping clean up NU’s penalty mistakes from a year ago.
“It’s great in terms of just making it feel like game tempo,” Parrella said. “You’ve got officials in there telling you if you are off-sides or whatever it may be, I think it’s helped us a ton.”
***Linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey, offensive lineman Corey Whitaker, and wide receiver Alonzo Moore all sat out of Thursday’s practice with various injuries.
***Junior cornerback Chris Jones said expect Nebraska to do some form of rotating at times at corner where both freshman Lamar Jackson and redshirt freshman Eric Lee could see some time.
“I feel like the way things are going right now, there’s going to be a rotation,” Jones said. “Me and Josh (Kalu) are capable of playing a whole game, but we are going to need those guys just as well, because you never know one of us may go down the first game or second game. We need some of those guys to step up, and they have been.”
***Jones said Nebraska’s defense has switched from a quarters coverage scheme to a Cover 3 this offseason, which has been much more “user-friendly” for the secondary. As a result, that’s allowed the defensive backs to make far more plays on the ball in practice.
***Jones said even though he and Kalu could play entire games if needed, he expects NU to rotate quite a bit at cornerback this season. That means guys like Lee, Boaz Joseph, Lamar Jackson, DiCaprio Bootle, and Charles Jackson all could get chances to see the field.
***Linebacker Mohamed Barry said he’s been making way more plays this fall and is starting to play like the player he was in his high school senior year highlight film. Barry described himself as a “bullet” on defense and expects to have a big role this season.
***Defensive line coach John Parrella said Mick Stoltenberg was “as big as a house” and had the prototypical frame for what NFL teams are looking for in defensive tackles.