Tuesday notebook: All signs still point to Fyfe as starter
As Nebraska makes its way through a new week of bowl preparations, its situation at quarterback remains the same as it’s been since the end of the regular season.
Senior Tommy Armstrong has still yet to suit up for practice since NU’s loss to Iowa as he recovers from a torn hamstring.
In his place, senior Ryker Fyfe continues to get all of the first-team reps, and unless something significantly changes with Armstrong’s recovery, the Grand Island native remains on track to be the starter for the Huskers’ Music City Bowl showdown with Tennessee on Dec. 30.
Offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said following Tuesday’s practice that Armstrong still hasn’t been ruled out for the bowl, and there was no set deadline for the four-year starter to return.
However, Langsdorf said it would not be a situation where Nebraska heads into the finals days of game prep still not knowing who it’s starter would be.
“I don’t think we can take it to the day before the game, but we’re planning on Ryker playing right now, and until we get different information, that’s the way we’ve been practicing,” Langsdorf said. “It’s not like we’re going to make it a game-time deal, but we don’t have a timetable on it right now, either.”
While Fyfe has been getting all of the work as the No. 1 quarterback this month, he too is recovering from an injury of his own. Fyfe is still wearing a soft cast on his broken left wrist and will continue to do so through the remainder of bowl practices.
Langsdorf said Fyfe still has hardly taken any snaps from under center, which Fyfe said last week he’d hope to be doing by now.
That said, based on what he’s seen so far in practice, Langsdorf said he’s excited to see what Fyfe is able to do in the bowl should he get the starting nod.
“He just hasn’t played a ton, but I think he’s gotten a lot of work in bowl prep, which has been good for him,” Langsdorf said. “He’s looked sharp, so I’m excited for him. The way he’s been playing, I feel good about going into this game with him.”
Pierson-El not counting Armstrong out
As it stands today, most don’t expect Armstrong not to play in the Dec. 30 Music City Bowl.
Armstrong continues to recover from the hamstring injury he suffered against Minnesota and he made the injury worse in the loss at Iowa.
However, when junior wide receiver De’Mornay Pierson-El evaluates the situation, he’s not ready to count Armstrong out just quite yet.
“It wouldn’t be Tommy if he didn’t try to play,” Pierson-El said. “I think he’ll be ready and everything like that, it just depends how he feels.”
So is Pierson-El saying Armstrong will play?
“It’s a toss-up in the air,” Pierson-El said. “I really haven’t been paying close attention to his rehab, but you know Tommy, he’s going to do everything in his power to play.”
Offense shouldn't change much regardless of QB
Regardless of who ends up being Nebraska’s starting quarterback for the bowl game, Langsdorf said he doesn’t anticipate the offensive game plan completely changing between Armstrong and Fyfe.
While Armstrong is known for his dual-threat skill set and ability as a runner, Langsdorf said he feels comfortable doing many of the same quarterback run actions with Fyfe that they would do with Armstrong.
“It’s not that we wouldn’t have some stuff for Ryker…” Langsdorf said. “Ryker has got the ability to run, so it’s not like we can’t do some of the same things with him back there. I don’t think we have a drastic change in the plan with him playing, but there will be a few things that will be a little different.”
Fyfe may be a capable runner in the eyes of his coaches, but there’s little arguing there won’t be a drop-off in that regard from what the Huskers got from a healthy Armstrong.
That’s why Langsdorf said he expects Nebraska’s running backs and offensive line to step up and handle the bulk of the workload in the running game to take the pressure off the quarterbacks.
“I think we’re a little different that way, but we’re going to have to block them either way,” Langsdorf said. “We’re going to have to be able to run and protect. That’s going to be an important part against a really good defensive line.”
- Robin Washut
Huskers make minor tweaks to special teams
With the firing of special teams coordinator Bruce Read, it’s obviously changed things up over the last couple of weeks with how the Huskers have prepared for the Music City Bowl.
“Coach (Mike) Riley kind of runs things a little bit and we just walk-thru everything and kind of everybody knows their job,” Pierson-El said. “It’s kind of similar (to before), it’s just more hands on with Coach Riley.”
As for changes, expect so see some tweaks, but as Pierson-El said it won’t be anything drastic on this short of notice.
“I don’t think it will be too many changes,” Pierson-El said. “There will be little changes here and there – just certain blocks who double teams and who releases during returns.
"On kickoff return it’s the same thing there, we may double somebody differently than we did in the past. It’s not a huge change, but it’s something small.”
***Senior safety Nathan Gerry was suited up and participated in Tuesday’s practice.
***Langsdorf confirmed that Tanner Lee would no be able to travel with the team to the bowl game because of NCAA transfer rules. Langsdorf said he understood the rule, but called it an “unfortunate” situation.
***Defensive coordinator Mark Banker said new cornerbacks coach Donté Williams has meshed well with the rest of the coaching staff and the players. Banker said Williams has been a natural fit on the recruiting front, and while he’s mostly just observing during coaches’ meetings, Banker thinks Williams will be a strong asset in terms of X’s and O’s.
***Williams said one thing that has really stood out to him since joining the Huskers is how talented both scout teams are and how much pride the players have in their scout team roles.
***Nebraska’s players each received $400 to spend in a gift suite as part of their Music City Bowl gift. They received eight points each worth $50 and they could use them however they pleased on multiple electronic items.
“I think I got the chair and one of the other smaller gifts,” Pierson-El said. “It was a (nice gift) from what I’ve seen in the past. Each year they add something different – it was a good suite.”
***Being someone who has recently coached at both the college and NFL levels, Langsdorf was asked his thoughts on the issue regarding college players choosing to sit out bowl games in order to prevent any potential injuries going into the NFL Draft.
“I don’t know each guy’s situation as well to have a great opinion, but I feel like it’s too bad they don’t finish out their careers and play for their team," Langsdorf said. "Having said that, I know there’s been some guys that played in the bowl last year and got hurt and probably hurt their stock a little bit and fell in the draft and cost them some money.
"So you look at that situation and kind of understand it. But they’ve put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into a program, and I think just as a teammate I would want them to finish it off.
"I don’t want to be too outspoken. I don’t know their situation. I know they’re going to be high draft picks, and you talk about it’s a business, and they’re going to be able to make some money, so you understand wanting to be healthy for the draft, too.”