Category Archives: Huskers News

Finally, time for business: Mike Riley, Huskers eager for first game after emotionally jolting offseason, camp

LINCOLN — At the start of his usual Monday press conference, Nebraska football coach Mike Riley had a smile and greetings for reporters — and by extension, Husker fans.

“All right!” Riley said. “Round 2! Here we go!”

At long last — after nine months of self-study and correction, after a late July tragedy and an August full of off-the-field distraction — Nebraska gets to play a football game and try to build on its last outing, a 37-29 Foster Farms Bowl win over UCLA that represented perhaps NU’s best performance in years.

Since that cool December night in the Bay Area, the program has weathered the death of a beloved teammate, a DUI arrest for a player and a coach, unexpected transfers, lots of recruiting events and a wide-ranging athletic department survey on the man who hired Riley, Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst.

No games. But lots of news.

“It’s been, obviously, a memorable offseason in a lot of ways, but I’ve always appreciated — from the end of the bowl game to right this moment — the work this team’s done,” Riley said. “Most of the time we’re all begging for a few more days of practice, a few more days of fall camp, but I’m more anxious than ever to see our team play.”

The Huskers host Fresno State on Saturday at 7 p.m. The Bulldogs lost 55-19 to Nebraska in 2014 — an interminable, oven-hot night in Fresno — but they have overhauled a good chunk of their roster since that game. FSU’s coordinators — Eric Kiesau on offense and Lorenzo Ward on defense — are new, too. Fresno starting quarterback Chason Virgil has one career start.

So Nebraska’s flying a bit blind. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong is ready for it.

“We’ve been sitting here talking for the longest about being 300 days away, being 200 days away, now we’re actually five days away from a game,” Armstrong said. “Now that we have everything in the game plan, now all we’re doing is just polishing up plays.”

Armstrong said the nine months between games passed by quickly for him. Spring practice seemed short to him. So did summer conditioning workouts. All was fairly quiet on the Sunday before Big Ten media days, as Armstrong, along with two teammates, prepared to head to Chicago to talk to the press.

That same day, Husker players and coaches found out punter Sam Foltz had died in an out-of-state car crash. They attended his funeral six days later in Grand Island. They started training camp just five days after that.

“Practice, in certain instances, was almost therapy,” Riley said. Players reacted in their own ways, he said, but he generally thought Foltz’s death would pull the team closer together. That seemed to be true for Armstrong, who talked at length Monday about the Foltz memorial wall erected just outside Memorial Stadium.

Remembering Foltz, Riley said, could deepen the bonds in the program.

“There’s a chance that people can gain strength from the situations we’ve been through and maybe pull together and need each other a little bit more and dedicate themselves to a task — whatever that might be — with a little more intensity,” Riley said.

The major distraction right in the middle of training camp — the drunken-driving arrest of wideouts coach Keith Williams — was also hard to handle, though in a different way. Riley said in mid-August that deciding an appropriate punishment for Williams “dominated” a whole week of his time. He saw Williams’ absence have an effect on the wide receivers, as well.

“I walk the stretch lines every day, and it was really different that first day with the wide receivers,” Riley said. “There’s no doubt about it.”

Williams returns to practice on Thursday after an unpaid suspension. He’ll address the full team at that time, Riley said. Williams will then be able to work with players in practice but miss the first four games as a coach.

One of Williams’ top recruits in the 2016 class, Derrion Grim, left the program during Williams’ suspension, though he told a newspaper in California his departure was unrelated to Williams’ situation. Quarterback AJ Bush also transferred, to Iowa Western.

Perhaps the biggest blow during training camp came when starting left guard Jerald Foster tore his MCL. He’ll miss the season. That injury occurred just days after Williams was arrested, and one night before Big Ten Network analysts watched a Husker practice they said had more of a Pac-12 style. The critiques of BTN analyst Gerry DiNardo — who said he does not consider Nebraska a Big Ten West contender based on that practice — then reverberated in the local media throughout the rest of camp.

Then, on Aug. 25, Riley announced the suspension of two starters for the Fresno State game — wide receiver Brandon Reilly, who pleaded guilty to first-offense DUI over the summer, and safety Nate Gerry, a captain. Both were suspended for a violation of team rules.

No games. But lots of news.

Now there’s a game, and Armstrong seemed pumped Monday. He spent a good chunk of his interview time answering questions about not being elected a captain — Armstrong said he’s a “born leader,” anyway — but he delved, for a moment, into what this final season may mean for him.

Armstrong remains close friends with former Husker offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles — whose final season was 2013 — and talked to him right before the press conference. Sirles’ message: Enjoy this. It goes fast. You’ll be getting that rose on senior day before you know it.

“It’s crazy to think about that, but it’s going to go by fast,” Armstrong said. “I’m ready for it. I know a bunch of seniors who are ready to go out there and play.”

Husker notes: Decision Won’t Affect Armstrong’s Approach; Langsdorf to Coach Games From Press Box

LINCOLN — Quarterback Tommy Armstrong’s teammates didn’t name him as one of their four team captains, but the fifth-year senior starter said he’s not discouraged by the results of the vote.

In fact, he’s not going to change anything about his approach — in meetings, lifting sessions, practices and games.

“Captains are chosen. Leaders are born,” Armstrong told reporters Monday.

Nebraska’s announcement came at a team meeting Saturday — that center Dylan Utter, receiver Jordan Westerkamp, linebacker Josh Banderas and safety Nate Gerry would be the team captains this season. A fifth captain will be named each week in honor of the late Sam Foltz.

Armstrong, a captain in 2015, had a hunch before Saturday that a couple of key example-setters might not get the honorary captaincy label.

He and his senior classmates — along with coach Mike Riley — were the ones who decided to give each returning player one vote. Only seniors were on the ballot. And the Huskers were selecting just four captains — not six, like last year.

Armstrong said he voted for Westerkamp. There were several worthy candidates, Armstrong said.

“We’ve got a lot of leaders on this team,” Armstrong said. “That title doesn’t mean anything to me, just because at the end of the day, I know I’m a leader. These guys know I’m a leader.”

Still, despite Armstrong’s outlook on the matter, Riley did feel it was necessary to meet with his No. 1 quarterback before naming the team captains.

Armstrong’s made 33 career starts, more than anyone on the team. His position is one that requires natural leadership traits, and he said he’s embraced that role since he arrived on campus. He’s addressed the entire squad on multiple occasions.

Riley didn’t want Armstrong to change his approach just because he didn’t get named a captain.

“He is absolutely still a leader on this team, and he is really well respected,” Riley said. “And we can attest to that with the votes that he got.”

The final tally wasn’t disclosed Monday. Armstrong insisted that his feelings weren’t hurt by the team’s decision.

“You can’t dwell on who’s captain and who’s not. At the end of the day, we’ve still got a game in five days,” Armstrong said. “I just want to get out there and show those guys that I’m willing to do anything and everything to make these guys better, and show that I’m ready to play.”

Pierson-El ready to play

Up until a few weeks ago, Riley still wondered some about the status of receiver De’Mornay Pierson-El, who was coming back from major damage to his left knee and leg from last Oct. 31.

“He and I had numerous discussions about where he was, how he felt, did he have any thoughts about the upcoming season,” Riley said Monday. “He has a redshirt year to play with, and so I only wanted him to play if he felt confident and comfortable.”

It was during a Husker scrimmage on Aug. 20 that Pierson-El convinced Riley he would be ready to go. In addition to an athletic touchdown catch, Riley pointed to the junior looking like his old self on a fly sweep and bubble screen.

“That night when I was watching (film), I said, ‘This guy is going to want to play,’” Riley said. “And he does. He’s ready and he’s been totally cleared. He has looked to me more and more comfortable and confident every day.”

The injury suffered at Purdue followed Pierson-El having already missed the first four games of his sophomore year with a foot injury. As a freshman, he had caught 23 passes and led the nation with 596 punt return yards, including three touchdowns.

The health of Pierson-El could lead to NU redshirting freshman JD Spielman. The staff has praised some of his work during fall camp, and Riley said he will be on the “alert list” should the Huskers still need him at receiver.

Bryant No. 3 at I-back

Freshman I-back Tre Bryant is definitely going to play, and was listed No. 3 behind senior Terrell Newby and sophomore Devine Ozigbo on the first depth chart of the season. Bryant also is listed with Jordan Nelson as the kickoff returners.

Riley said the 5-foot-11, 200-pound Bryant has looked good not only running and catching the football, but with pass protections.

“His football IQ is high,” Riley said. “And you would not really know if you watched our running backs go through practice that this guy was a freshman. So he’s going to be in the mix.”

Mikale Wilbon is listed No. 4, but regarding any sort of I-back rotation, Riley said: “How they go in will probably be determined by the situation a little bit.”

Langsdorf to be in press box

Armstrong said Monday he’ll miss the occasional post-touchdown celebrations he had with offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf, but he supports his coach’s move to the press box for the 2016 season.

Langsdorf, who also serves as NU’s quarterbacks coach and play caller, will bring close friend Mike Cavanaugh — the offensive line coach — with him. That’s Nebraska’s two most-seasoned offensive coaches in the box together.

Riley approved the decision. Langsdorf and Cavanaugh spent last season on the sidelines. Riley, who called offensive plays for many years while serving as Oregon State’s head coach, said sideline play calling is tough.

“It’s nicer to have everything kind of laid out,” Riley said. “I think that this will be a good move for us, and then we’ll have the right people who can communicate with the players on the field.”

The offensive line will get sideline assistance from graduate assistant and tight ends coach Tavita Thompson. Running backs coach Reggie Davis will organize the sideline huddle during timeouts; that job had previously gone to wideouts coach Keith Williams, who is suspended for the first four games because of a drunken-driving arrest. In Williams’ absence, another graduate assistant, Hardie Buck, will stay on the sidelines and help with players.

Armstrong said he’ll like Langsdorf having a new bird’s-eye perspective of the field.

“It’ll help us a lot more,” Armstrong said. “It’ll go a lot with trust of the quarterbacks — and just trust in the team — that he’s able to go up there and trust we’ll be able to communicate with him. It’ll help us a lot by seeing the bigger picture from up top and being able to tell us what we need to fix and tell us what he’s seeing.”

Darlington works as holder

Following the death of Foltz, Zack Darlington approached his freshman year roommate, kicker Drew Brown, about replacing Foltz as the holder.

Brown said he couldn’t have asked for a better person to do it.

“He’s been enthusiastic about it,” Brown said, “He’s wanted to do it, and I couldn’t appreciate it more.”

Despite having a new holder, Brown said he couldn’t be happier with the results following camp.

“Me and (holder) Jordan Ober and Zack have been doing a great job just working every day, just getting that chemistry down, just getting that flow,” Brown said. “That’s all kicking is, just getting into a flow, getting into a groove, just doing the best you can.”

Brown’s goal of the offseason wasn’t to gain distance; it was to gain consistency and explosiveness.

“That ultimately translates into range,” Brown said. “I try to keep all my kicks the same, whether it’s an extra point or 50-yard kick.”

Brown has converted 35 of 48 field-goal attempts in his career at Nebraska, with a long of 50 yards.

Fresno a bit of a mystery

Fresh off receiving a scholarship, senior defensive tackle Logan Rath said he has less to worry about with that weight lifted off his shoulders.

Rath and the rest of the defensive line will have their work cut out for them against Fresno State.

“The tough part is we haven’t seen a lot,” Rath said. “They had a lot of staff changes on the offense, so we don’t have a lot of film we can watch. We know they are going to be an up-tempo team.”

Rath said the focus has been trying to cover fundamentals.

“There’s nothing anyone can do different than what you are going to see every week,” Rath said. “Just little different tendencies, different things, players.”

Huskers more complete after toppling top-10 foes on opening weekend

LINCOLN — Perfection isn’t obtainable on opening weekend, but by notching wins over two top-10 opponents to start the year, Nebraska put the rest of the country on notice. The defending NCAA volleyball champions have lost little, if any, mojo from the end of December’s title run.

While many other teams began the season wondering how their pieces would fit together, the Huskers’ 3-1 win over Florida and impressive sweep of then-No. 2 Texas showed that Nebraska may only need to tighten some screws to remain one of the nation’s top teams.

“I think we executed at such a high level that everything that we did was, not really perfect, but to the point that we were just really good this weekend,” All-America opposite hitter Kadie Rolfzen said.

On a season-opening weekend rife with losses by top-10 teams, Nebraska’s dominating performance against the Longhorns on Saturday left the Huskers as the unanimous No. 1 team in Monday’s AVCA coaches poll.

As if the Huskers needed any more motivation for a rematch of last season’s national title game, Rolfzen said the team was chafed by offseason chatter that their win over Texas last December could be credited to home-court advantage at the CenturyLink Center. On a neutral court Saturday, Nebraska out-hit the Longhorns .304 to .140 and held the advantage in every statistical category to run its winning streak to 18 matches.

“I know it was put out there that the only reason we won was because it was in Omaha, and I think that was just some added motivation for us,” Rolfzen said. “That wasn’t the reason we won.

We won because we were the better team. Just going into Saturday, we knew we were capable of beating them again, and we were motivated to get that win again.”

Coach John Cook was quick to point out that while the Huskers may be ahead of most teams at this early point, NU is far from a finished product. The coach said his team left opposing hitters free to attack in one-on-one situations too often, and with two new starters on the floor, the offense still can find a higher, smoother gear despite hitting .349.

However, Cook couldn’t contain his enthusiasm for what he feels may be the team’s biggest strength — its work ethic. Preseason workouts mostly unburdened him of worries that the 2016 team would coast on last year’s title run. In the locker room Saturday, he told them that concern had disappeared.

“What was most pleasing to me that I communicated to them was with the effort they’ve put in since January. It would’ve been very easy for them (to say), ‘Hey, we’re defending national champs. We’re going on cruise control. We’ve got it all figured out,’ ” Cook said. “But they’ve actually worked harder this year than they did last year.”

All alone at the top

Nebraska received 60 of 64 first-place votes in the preseason coaches poll, but after NU won the VERT Challenge, all of the other votes also landed in Lincoln. Texas had received three top votes and Stanford got the other, but NU claimed the Longhorns’ votes, and the Cardinal lost in five sets to San Diego at home before upsetting Minnesota.

Wisconsin moved to No. 2 after a 3-0 start at a tournament in Hawaii. Texas fell to No. 3, followed by No. 4 Kansas and No. 5 Washington.

Minnesota, Florida, UCLA, Stanford and BYU round out the top 10.

Back row in the driver’s seat

With all of Nebraska’s back-row specialists returning this season, serving, passing and floor defense were anticipated to be strengths. Cook still said he was “a little” surprised by the back court’s effectiveness.

Nebraska held the digs advantage in both matches with senior libero Justine Wong-Orantes recording 33 digs. Wong-Orantes marshaled a back row that put on a defensive clinic, including junior Annika Albrecht and sophomore Kenzie Maloney, and Lincoln Pius X grad Sydney Townsend had several strong serving runs.

“A strength of ours is serving and passing, which is something we’ve been trying to put in our DNA for this team,” Cook said. “I thought their composure was really good. They stayed in the moment. Whenever Florida and Texas made runs, we didn’t panic, so I really liked that.”

Hunter earns Big Ten honor

Junior setter Kelly Hunter was named Big Ten Co-Setter of the Week Monday, sharing the honor with Wisconsin’s Lauren Carlini.

Hunter, a Papillion-La Vista South graduate, led Nebraska to a .349 attack percentage in the two wins while averaging 12.43 assists per set. Against Florida, Hunter also showed off her versatility with seven kills and 13 digs.

It’s the third time Hunter has received Setter of the Week honors from the league.

Hitters adjust to new roles

Both starting outside hitters found themselves in new spots this weekend. Cook said sophomore Mikaela Foecke has moved into Nebraska’s “L1” position this year, giving her two front-row rotations next to Hunter. Last year, Foecke played the “L2” position, where she spent more time at the net when Hunter was in the back row.

The change means Foecke will likely face more situations where opponents send two blockers her way. Against Florida, she hit .538 with 15 kills. Texas managed to hold Foecke in check with seven kills on 21 swings.

Graduate transfer Andie Malloy earned starts in both matches but had to overcome a slow start with two kills and several errors in the first set against Florida.

“I was debating whether to yank her or not,” Cook said, “but early season like that, you don’t want your players thinking ‘OK, if I make a couple mistakes I’m getting yanked.’ So, I swallowed hard and left her in. Then, she started playing really well.”

Malloy steadied and finished with 12 kills against the Gators and added nine kills versus Texas. The Baylor transfer led Nebraska with 63 attempts on the weekend.

Opponents watch

This weekend’s Nebraska Invite marks the home opener at the Devaney Center. NU will play Iowa State (1-1) Friday at 6 p.m. and Oregon State (2-1) Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

The Cyclones, coached by former Husker Christy Johnson-Lynch, split their matches last weekend by sweeping Wichita State on Friday before losing to Creighton 3-1 on Saturday.

Omaha North alum Samara West, a 6-4 junior middle blocker, had 14 kills on the weekend for the Cyclones.

Oregon State split a pair of five-set matches to start the Ultra Ankle Challenge in Corvallis before sweeping Seattle. Outside hitters Lanesha Reagan and Mary-Kate Marshall both recorded double-digit kills in each match for the Beavers.

Husker volleyball is unanimous No. 1 in new poll

What’s better than No. 1?

For the Huskers volleyball team, it’s a unanimous No. 1, following weekend victories over then No. 10 Florida and No. 2 Texas.

Nebraska received all 64 first place votes in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Top 25 poll released Monday. The Huskers lost only one set in The VERT Challenge, held this weekend in Eugene, Oregon.

Wisconsin came in at second, with Texas falling to third. Kansas and Washington rounded out the top five. Florida, after splitting matches against Nebraska and Oregon, rose to No. 7.

Minnesota (six), Ohio State (11), Penn State (13), Illinois (17) and Purdue (24) were the other Big Ten schools that made the cut. Michigan State and Michigan received votes.

This weekend, the Huskers host the Nebraska Invite, with games against Iowa State, Oregon State and possibly Syracuse on tap Friday and Saturday at the Devaney Center.

Creighton slipped four spots to No. 22 in the latest American Volleyball Coaches Association Top 25 poll released Monday.

Freshman Isaiah Roby scheduled for MRI, Huskers being ‘very cautious’ in return from injury

LINCOLN — Nebraska hopes to find out soon about a timeline for the return to action of men’s basketball freshman Isaiah Roby.

The 6-foot-8, 205-pound wing is scheduled for an MRI later week. He has been sidelined since mid-July after reporting pain in his hip and pelvis that was diagnosed as a stress reaction.

“He hasn’t been able to do anything, other than lift upper-body weights,’’ NU coach Tim Miles said Monday. “We’re being very cautious with this.’’

Roby has been touted as an immediate contributor. He led Dixon (Illinois) High to last spring’s regional finals while averaging 12.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.7 blocked shots a game.

In recruiting, Nebraska still has three open scholarships after ending contact with Georgetown transfer Paul White, a source with knowledge of the situation said.

White, a 6-8 junior forward, had asked for more time but enrollment at Nebraska ends this week. White also has visited Oregon, which is on the quarter system instead of semesters, and doesn’t start school until Sept. 26.

Balanced attack helps Huskers cap weekend by beating a second top-10 team

EUGENE, Ore. — Nebraska validated its preseason No. 1 ranking.

The Huskers defeated No. 2 Texas 25-15, 25-16, 25-21 Saturday to cap an opening weekend with two wins over top-10 teams in the VERT Challenge at Matthew Knight Arena.

After beating No. 10 Florida in four sets Friday, the Huskers swept the Longhorns in a rematch of last year’s NCAA final won by Nebraska.

“Every time we play Texas, we know it will be a tough game, and even with Florida, we know they are always good,” senior Kadie Rolfzen said. “We knew we had to be great to beat them even if it was the beginning weekend of the year.”

Nebraska knows it could face both teams again at the end of the season.

“We worked hard all summer to prepare for this tournament because we knew this would be great competition against great teams,” coach John Cook said. “There is a good chance we will see these teams again in the NCAA tournament. I think our players made a commitment to come in and play well this weekend.”

Kadie Rolfzen had 11 kills and Amber Rolfzen had 10 for the Huskers, while Kelly Hunter had 40 assists. Justine Wong-Orantes had 12 digs while Kadie Rolfzen added 11.

“It was good just to get out here and play someone besides ourselves,” Kadie Rolfzen said. “Just to go out and play two top 10-ranked teams to see where we are at. We did very well this weekend as a team with everything we have been working on since January.”

Texas beat Oregon in four sets on Friday before falling to the Huskers.

“I don’t think our passing was very good. We broke down,” Texas coach Jerritt Elliott said. “I don’t think our confidence level was very good and I don’t think we showed up to compete at a high level. I was extremely disappointed with the way we performed tonight.”

Cook had an opposite view of his club.

“I thought our passing was really good in the first two games and then shaky in the third game,” he said. “That is what we preach to our players: Serve and pass is what wins these matches.”

Nebraska scored the first three points of the opening set and went ahead 8-3 on a kill by Andie Malloy before Texas cut the lead to 9-8. Amber Rolfzen and Mikaela Foecke followed with back-to-back kills for the Huskers, and Sydney Townsend added a service ace to push the lead to 12-8.

Texas closed within 15-12 before Nebraska got four straight points beginning and ending with kills from Malloy to take a 19-12 lead en route to winning the set.

Texas scored the first point of the second set to lead for the first time, but after it was tied 2-2, Nebraska scored four straight points and did not trail again in the set. Foecke had a kill and Malloy added a kill and block before Kadie Rolfzen added a kill to put the Huskers ahead 6-2.

Nebraska had another 4-0 run, including two kills by Kadie Rolfzen and a kill from Malloy, to take a 10-3 lead. After Texas closed within 12-10, Nebraska got four points in a row yet again to lead 16-10, and the Longhorns never got closer than five before Annika Albrecht finished off the set with a service ace.

Texas took an 11-8 lead in the third set before NU tied it 12-12 on a block by Amber Rolfzen. The Huskers took the lead at 14-13 on an ace by Kadie Rolfzen and a kill from Hunter.

“In Game 3, we started free-balling and gave them some easy balls because we didn’t work hard to get in position to get a good swing,” Cook said.

Texas tied the set at 17, but Foecke followed with a kill and Briana Holman had a kill and a block to put the Huskers ahead 20-17. Kadie Rolfzen finished the match with a kill.

Nebraska flies home Sunday morning to prepare for matches at the Devaney Center against Iowa State on Friday and Oregon State on Saturday.

“I thought we were smoother today than yesterday,” Cook said. “And now the challenge is to get them up for next week.”

Husker Notes: Tre Bryant among four freshmen to play, others on ‘alert’ list

LINCOLN — For most of training camp, coach Mike Riley has talked at length about the potential freshmen who might play this season.

On Saturday, Riley whittled down the “for sure” list to four names: I-back Tre Bryant, cornerback Lamar Jackson, safety JoJo Domann and punter Caleb Lightbourn.

Lightbourn is the replacement for the late Sam Foltz, who died in a July car crash. He was supposed to redshirt, but instead he’ll play. Jackson and Domann appear on several special teams, and Jackson could crack the two-deep on defense. He remains in a battle for No. 3 cornerback with Boaz Joseph and Eric Lee. He played some corner Saturday night in Nebraska’s nickel formation, as Joshua Kalu slid inside to the slot/nickel spot.

Bryant appears primed to play the most. He looks to be NU’s No. 1 kickoff returner, and he played with the Nos. 1 and 2 offenses in Saturday’s practice. Though the Huskers’ top two I-backs appear to be Devine Ozigbo and Terrell Newby, Bryant seems even with Mikale Wilbon.

Riley said Bryant is a good runner, but he’s also savvy in the passing game. He can catch the ball and run routes, and he seems to have a knack for knowing who to pick up in pass protection. In that way, Riley compared Bryant to one of his best players at Oregon State, current NFL running back Jacquizz Rodgers.

“Tre was really natural that way,” Riley said of Bryant’s pass-blocking ability.

Freshmen on ‘alert’ list

Several other true freshmen are on what Riley calls an “alert” list. That means they’ll probably practice with the top two units just in case they need to play, but Nebraska would prefer to redshirt them.

The list includes left guard Boe Wilson, who almost seemed certain to start the season opener against Fresno State when Jerald Foster suffered a season-ending injury. But, in short shrift, Nebraska moved senior walk-on Sam Hahn to left guard, where he’ll be the starter. If he can hold down the spot until Corey Whitaker — a fifth-year senior who is also an option at guard — returns, Nebraska may be able to keep Wilson’s redshirt.

Other players on the alert list are receiver JD Spielman, offensive linemen Matt Farniok and John Raridon, defensive backs Tony Butler and DiCaprio Bootle, and quarterback Patrick O’Brien, who’d only play if Nebraska’s top two quarterbacks, Tommy Armstrong and Ryker Fyfe, got hurt. O’Brien will travel with the team, but NU has an “emergency quarterback” scenario in place if the top quarterbacks were to experience some kind of equipment malfunction.

The remaining freshmen should redshirt. That includes tight ends David Engelhaupt and Jack Stoll; guard Bryan Brokop; defensive linemen Ben Stille and Collin Miller; linebackers Quayshon Alexander, Pernell Jefferson and Greg Simmons; and cornerback Marquel Dismuke.

Alexander will have shoulder surgery, Riley said.

Another true freshman, receiver Derrion Grim, transferred last week to San Joaquin Delta College.

Jordan Westerkamp, Nate Gerry named captains for second time, but Tommy Armstrong not among four picks

LINCOLN — On several fronts, it might have been one of Nebraska football’s most productive and intriguing practices Saturday night. It just happened to occur in front of a Memorial Stadium crowd of Husker students and end with a throat-clearing rap concert.

“Only in Nebraska,” said coach Mike Riley after his team’s 90-minute workout in front of a reporter-estimated 3,500 students who attended the “Boneyard Bash.” Nebraska’s marching band played throughout the practice, and DJ Kool — whose song “Let Me Clear My Throat” became a celebratory anthem for the Huskers after upsetting Michigan State — held a 15-minute concert after practice.

Some Husker players, still in pads, joined the students in the bleachers. The rapper declared Nebraska would win all its games.

Shortly after the concert, fireworks shot from the top of Memorial Stadium.

“I’ve seen it all!” center Michael Decker joked.

Riley then held court with the media. He had big news to share, and needed his loudest voice to share it, since there were hundreds of screaming, excited freshmen 20 yards away, waiting to rush the field for a Tunnel Walk experience.

NU players elected four captains: Jordan Westerkamp, Dylan Utter, Josh Banderas and Nate Gerry. All are seniors. Westerkamp and Gerry are repeat captains. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong — a captain as a junior — didn’t make the cut.

Riley will select a fifth game captain each week in honor of punter Sam Foltz, who died in a July car crash. Nebraska seniors asked Riley to create the fifth position. They also asked Riley if they could elect captains, although Riley said he considered picking single-game captains — similar to the Bo Pelini era.

Ultimately, he let the team vote for captains. He knew the vote would be close because there were many senior options. Riley said he was “a little bit surprised” that Armstrong wasn’t a captain.

“I knew it was going to be hard,” Riley said. “A guy like Tommy got lots of votes. But every team has a little different dynamic. New people emerge. It gets hard in the competition.”

Riley noted that two Husker quarterbacks who won national titles — Tommie Frazier and Scott Frost — were also not captains on their team.

It was Armstrong who spoke to students Saturday night.

“Tommy’s a leader,” Riley said. “He’s a quarterback. Everybody respects him.”

Ditto for Gerry, who is suspended for the first game for an undisclosed violation of team rules, but remains a captain.

“The team respects Nate a ton,” Riley said. “All of us — with the team and on the team — we’ve all had ‘stuff,’ and they all know that. Nate made a mistake. That does not diminish him as a leader, what he’s done for this team through the years. He’s had a great, great offseason with this team. And I think they recognize that. He’ll go on, make good decisions. I don’t think we’ll see any of this again. The team obviously really respects him.”

Riley lauded the practice as a whole. The workout focused on situational football — down and distance situations, including fourth-down and red-zone plays. Riley said the Huskers ran 64 situations.

“I thought they stayed in it pretty well,” he said. “We had one group that had a false start, and besides that, it was pretty clean. That’s what we were looking for.”

The son of a coach, Huskers snag tight end Reese Leitao out of Oklahoma

LINCOLN — Reese Leitao played the decision-making process pretty close to the vest.

The tight end from Oklahoma, the newest commit to Nebraska’s2017 recruiting class, didn’t let many people know what he was thinking. Even his coach, Jenks High School legend Allan Trimble, wasn’t sure of much beyond Leitao’s top four.

Until Saturday, the morning after Jenks’ season-opening win. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Leitao stood up and told the team he was going to be a Husker, picking NU over Penn State, Oklahoma State and Maryland.

“Pretty cool,” said Trimble, in his 21st year at Jenks, which is going for its fifth straight state title.

Trimble’s long been a fan of Nebraska — former Husker defensive lineman Jason Lohr prepped at Jenks — and he’s just as big of a fan of Leitao, who’s still growing as a football player.

“We’ve had some great, great players come through here, but Reese is a dandy,” Trimble said.

A 4.0 student. Team captain. Son of a coach — Dave Leitao is currently DePaul’s men’s basketball coach. Reese Leitao gets it in part because his dad — whom Trimble called a “sage” — gets it.

“You can see Dave’s teaching has poured all over Reese,” Trimble said. “He’s mature beyond his years.”

Mature enough that, even though the rest of his family has moved to Chicago, Reese is playing his senior year at Jenks, which is near Tulsa, where Dave spent one year as an assistant basketball coach before heading to DePaul. Reese is living with his grandmother for his senior season.

Reese, who announced his decision on Twitter and isn’t talking to media until Sunday, came to Jenks as a sophomore. At that point, Trimble said, he was still more of a basketball player who was “very, very green” as a football player.

But Leitao stopped playing summer basketball before his junior year, focused on the weight room and made a big leap as a junior. Football scholarships followed. He visited Nebraska for a Friday Night Lights camp in June; his dad attended, as well, chatting up current Nebraska assistant coach Jim Molinari.

And then it went quiet. One of Nebraska’s top tight end targets,Cade Otton of Olympia, Washington, picked Washington after getting an offer from the Huskies in early August. Leitao’s decision gives the Huskers their second tight end commit of the class, joining Aurora’s Austin Allen.

Trimble said Leitao has a 6-foot-6 wingspan and could turn out to be a top defensive end prospect, as well. Leitao had several key defensive plays, Trimble said, in Jenks’ win.

“His No. 1 attribute is his tenacity,” Trimble said.

Leitao is the 14th commit in NU’s class. He’s a three-star prospect according to 247 Sports, Rivals and Scout, and unrated by ESPN.

Husker Legends Help Raise Money for Sam Foltz Scholarship in Columbus

COLUMBUS – Husker Legends Johnny Rodgers and Calvin Jones stopped in Columbus Saturday afternoon in order to raise money for a Sam Foltz memorial scholarship fund.

Imgaine That Scrapbooking and Artzy Haven Owner Audra Jedlicka says she first met Jones when she was inquiring about getting his clothing line in her store. She says the business owners at Park Plaza were looking to do a community involved event, and after talking with Jones, thought this would be a great opportunity to honor beloved Husker Sam Foltz.

Jedlicka says after talking with and getting approval from Sam’s parents they moved forward with planning the event and raising money for the scholarship fund that will go to Greeley and Grand Island students.

Sam was such a huge image and person that people respected in his area, and so he went to high school in grand island but you know strong Geeley roots. And so they wanted to kind of get two of them going, and we said let’s take your choice, whatever you want to do. So this money is going, tag marked for that, for scholarships for those kids,” says Jedlicka.

Jones and Rodgers both said they thought it was important for them to show support for a fellow Husker who meant a lot to the program and the people of Nebraska.

Everything I’ve heard from current Huskers and guys that played with him, that graduated from the University, he [Sam Fotlz] was a stand up, character guy. And so anytime we can give back to one of our own it just makes it that much more special, but he’s going to be truly missed,” says Jones.

I’m glad that Nebraska, some of the guys that I’ve played with, and Calvin’s played with that we all stay in touch still cause it’s not whether you win or lose in that season, the whole program overall has been a winning tradition,” says Rodgers.

The two former Huskers signed autographs in Park Plaza from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and additional raffle items and food were available, with the money raised going to support the Sam Foltz scholarship fund.