LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska coach Mike Riley announced on Thursday senior safety Nate Gerry’s career with the Huskers is over.
Gerry and junior corner Boaz Joseph have both been ruled ineligible for the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30 against Tennessee. Riley said he “couldn’t say anything more,” other than it didn’t have anything to do with a violation of team rules.
When asked if it was a violation of a university rule, Riley said, “You could say that.”
“You can figure it out from here,” Riley said. “So it wasn’t a coaches’ decision, it wasn’t a team rule. It was just plain out eligibility.”
According to his profile on Huskers.com, Gerry is scheduled to graduate in May 2017 with a degree in sociology.
Riley said players whose careers end by choice, and not because of an injury, is something that’s “tough to swallow,” and also part of a culture that college football helped create.
“As a coach you want to do the very best you can preparing your team to have the best year, and for our team this game is so big,” Riley said. “To get to 10 wins, to play an SEC team and beat them. To play Tennessee and beat them. I think it’s big for this team right now. As we know from a year ago, it kicks you nicely off into the next year.
“So to then not have all your parts that help you get to the bowl game just by choice, not by injury, it’d be hard to swallow, I think.”
Gerry played 39 games in a Huskers uniform, starting 29. He was second in tackles this season with 74 and second on the team in interceptions with four. He also had three tackles for loss, one sack, one fumble recovery and seven pass breakups.
Gerry was selected as a team captain before the season but was suspended for the first game for violation of team rules.
“Are we disappointed? Sure. It affects a lot of people,” Riley said of Gerry’s second suspension. “Most, I guess, most that it affects directly right now for the moment is his 2016 team, that he’s a captain of.”
In a way, Riley said, players whose careers end by choice, like Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey or Gerry’s ineligibility, is part of a culture that the college football helped create.
The College Football Playoff bowls, Riley said, are “the ultimate.” And if teams don’t make the ultimate, it doesn’t mean as much, so top players don’t feel like playing in a lesser bowl.
“My guess is they’re getting advice for people that will be representing them as the time goes on,” Riley said.
Gerry not playing puts Nebraska’s defense in a bind, since the senior started all but one game in 2016.
Riley said he found out Gerry might not be eligible early in the week and began practicing with sophomore Antonio Reed in the safety position. Reed has picked up more repetitions as the week has gone on, Riley said.
“Nate’s been in that spot in the secondary for a long time, so that’s a tough one.” Riley said. “But I am excited for Antonio Reed and his opportunity there.”
Now Nebraska will likely be without senior quarterback Tommy Armstrong, the school’s leader in passing yards, Jordan Westerkamp, who was one game away from tying the school record in consecutive games with a catch, and Gerry, who was one interception away from being No. 10 in career interceptions at Nebraska.
Riley also announced freshman running back Tre Bryant, senior running back Terrell Newby and senior wide receiver Alonzo Moore are all battling through injuries.