LINCOLN — As expected, Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong — who remains in the concussion protocol following a head injury suffered in the second quarter of the Ohio State game — did not practice Tuesday.
Coach Mike Riley said on Monday he’d know more later in the week and most likely have a firm answer on Armstrong’s availability on Thursday. Armstrong, dressed in team leisure gear, stood with offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf at practice while other quarterbacks worked drills.
In his absence, backup quarterback Ryker Fyfe got starter’s snaps Tuesday. Fyfe’s backup for the game is Zack Darlington, a quarterback-turned-wideout who is NU’s holder and will serve as an emergency signal caller for the Huskers so Nebraska can preserve the redshirt of true freshman Patrick O’Brien.
» Starting offensive linemen David Knevel and Tanner Farmer practiced Tuesday, as did Jerald Foster — who’s trying to return just three months after a MCL tear in his knee — and a couple freshmen who had been dinged up in recent weeks, including Matt Farniok. It may have been the most offensive linemen Nebraska has had practicing at once since training camp.
» Linebacker Dedrick Young didn’t practice. Bray said NU will look at junior Chris Weber at outside linebacker if neither Young nor Marcus Newby is healthy enough to play. Weber is a middle linebacker and Josh Banderas’ backup. Another OLB option, Bray said, could be redshirt freshman Mohamed Barry.
Bray said Weber has been consistently good this season — and finished well against Ohio State, too — but Banderas has had a strong year so Weber hasn’t played as much. Bray said he wouldn’t hesitate to play Weber at outside linebacker if needed.
As for Barry — a touted redshirt freshman out of Atlanta — Bray said he had a “long talk” with Barry on Monday about Barry’s frustrations over not playing much in Nebraska’s defense. Barry works after practice — often for a half-hour or longer — on pass coverage.
Bray said Barry has all the athleticism necessary to play the position well — now it’s about consistency.
“Being assignment sound, finding the right run fit,” Bray said.
Banker knows what he’ll get
Nebraska defensive coordinator Mark Banker said Tuesday Minnesota is one of those teams that has a clear identity: running the ball as often and as effectively as possible.
“They’re big up front,” Banker said. “I think they average somewhere around 6-foot-6, and 320 and 330 pounds.”
As a result, Banker said, the Gophers aren’t going to pass it with quarterback Mitch Leidner unless it’s necessary. Minnesota throws 25.4 passes per game — fewest in the Big Ten.
“The big deal with us is stopping their run game,” Banker said. “They do want to do that. They want to run. If they can, they’ll just keep running the ball.”
The Gophers, Banker said, “have kind of found their niche” with their two-headed running game featuring backs Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks. The Gophers have three dependable tight ends. Minnesota runs power sweep and inside zone plays a lot, and Leidner throws play-action passes off of it.
Banker said Leidner is more like a running back at times, often with a lead blocker. Leidner had 14 carries for 74 yards in a 44-31 win over Purdue.
Huskers’ Friday game is set
Nebraska will be a part of the Big Ten’s first Friday night television package next season. The league announced Tuesday that the Huskers will play in one of the six games. NU will play at Illinois on Sept. 29, 2017. The game will be televised on one of ESPN’s or Fox’s channels.
The Huskers had already agreed to host one home game at some point over the three-year period of the Friday night package. Nebraska will host that game either in 2018 or 2019.
Big CFP fall after OSU loss
NU fell to No. 19 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings released on Tuesday. The Huskers had been No. 10 prior to a 62-3 loss to the Buckeyes. Five Big Ten teams made the poll, compiled each week by a CFP selection committee: No. 3 Michigan; No. 5 Ohio State; No. 7 Wisconsin; No. 10 Penn State; and Nebraska. Alabama, Clemson, Michigan and Washington were the top four. After the regular season, the CFP will choose the top four teams to participate in the playoff.