LINCOLN, Neb. — Mike Riley doesn’t want to be too dramatic, but it’s hard not to be. After one week of fall camp, Nebraska’s coach is more than pleased with what he’s seen.
“This has been just a really seamless, smooth week,” Riley said after practice Saturday. “As much so as any I’ve been in. I don’t want to speak in too dramatic of a fashion, but really good. Guys [are] doing what they’re supposed to do.”
Part of what has made the week so seamless is the leadership. Riley inherited leaders like former Huskers Nathan Gerry and Tommy Armstrong when he accepted the Nebraska job at the end of 2014, but those athletes have graduated. Left in their place are those anxious to step up and develop.
Riley calls the leaders emerging as dynamic, but also says they’re not overly dramatic. Two players that have specifically stood out to him are linebackers Chris Weber and Dedrick Young, as well as defensive lineman Mick Stoltenberg.
“There’s no doubt those two inside linebackers, you just don’t have to worry about those guys in any phase — the football phase, the school phase, life,” Riley said. “Chris Weber and Dedrick Young … to me that’s tremendous leadership. I mean, they do everything they’re supposed to do. They’re great examples and I think they’re somewhat of a magnet to people. Mick Stoltenberg is for sure a magnet. People listen to him.
“I think that leadership has grown and developed but I think this group in general has been really, really easy to handle throughout the camp.”
Riley is cautious to single out too many players at this point, but he’s pleased overall. He’s also ready to see what Week 2 brings.
Notes from Mike Riley
• Nebraska scrimmaged during practice Saturday. While it wasn’t open to the media, Riley appeared happy with the results post-practice. He also said the scrimmage was roughly 86 plays, with the first units getting about 25.
“That is what our goal was,” Riley said. “The next group got a little bit more than that. Everyone else got about that which is about 30 [plays].”
Riley called the overall performance “a mixed bag,” but felt the first-string defense looked good. And he was specifically pleased with the secondary.
“The secondary definitely made some plays,” Riley said. “We tried to get the corners a lot of turns, maybe more than the rest of the guys just because a couple of them haven’t played in a game.”
As for the offense, the first-string group was not as consistent but “had some nice runs.” He was excited about that.
• According to Riley, all four of Nebraska’s quarterbacks “actually functioned okay” during the scrimmage.
• Junior wide receiver Bryan Reimers was the only player injured Saturday, but it doesn’t appear to be of long-term concern. Riley said Reimers landed awkwardly on his back after catching a pass during a skeleton drill before the scrimmage. Riley expects to know more soon.
• Curious how Riley feels about that new proposed deal between Nebraska and Adidas that is 11 years and nearly $129 million? He’s a fan.
“I think Adidas has grown branding-wise in three years a lot and it’s due to their work,” Riley said. “They’re making a big move. We love our association with them. I love the individuals that work with Adidas. The service with Adidas has been outstanding, so we appreciate it.”
• Earlier this week, we learned that safeties coach Scott Booker is a major part of Nebraska’s new special teams arrangement. All position coaches help with special teams in some way, but Booker is responsible for coordinating. It’s a big change for Riley, who is used to one single coordinator handling special teams.
However, Riley likes how Booker has embraced the role so far.
“He’s really energetic,” Riley said. “I think he grabs kids in a really good way mentally, psychologically, he grabs them, teaches them. It’s a good picture.”
• Riley feels Nebraska was “very fortunate” to hire coaching veteran Gary Darnell as a defensive consultant. In fact, he could have never imagined a few years ago having the type of expertise on his staff in non-coaching roles. Looking back, he now jokes about how extensive his Nebraska staff is comparatively.
“As a matter of fact, I reflect on our moving into our building in 1997 and there were nine coaches offices,” Riley said. “There was a graduate assistant office that had two desks. There was an operation office and there was my office and that was it. That was all of the people and one full-time secretary. That was it.
“I don’t even know if I could name everyone in our staff meeting. I can really.”