4 Things We've Learned About Nebraska Through Fall Camp so Far
With Week 1 of fall camp in the books, a few storylines have begun to take shape for head coach Bo Pelini and the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Unfortunately, injuries plagued most of the practice talk during Week 1. Thankfully, that's not all Nebraska had to show, though. From the quarterback position to the offensive line that will protect the starter, there has been plenty to watch. So, what did fans see during the first week?
Here are the four things we have learned about the Huskers during fall camp so far.
The Quarterback Race Isn't over
Pelini was clear that the starting role was Tommy Armstrong's to lose during Big Ten media days, per SandhillsExpress.com. That doesn't mean it's all set in stone.
In fact, that's quite the opposite. Both Ryker Fyfe and Johnny Stanton have had time during the first week of fall camp to work with the No. 1 offense. While that doesn't necessarily mean either will take the job from Armstrong, it definitely means he has to work harder for it.
Regardless, offensive coordinator Tim Beck is pleased with their progression as a unit.
“I like it. I like the way they are improving---their decision making, getting rid of the ball on time,” Beck said, per Huskers.com. “I am really pleased. That is probably one of the groups that has made the biggest jump in the last three days.”
And while Fyfe and Stanton continue to improve alongside him, Armstrong is determined to put in the time. Per his Twitter account, he plans to be the last one to leave practice every day.
However, Armstrong did get hit pretty hard on Saturday, which has resulted in him now sporting the green non-contact jersey, according to Greg Smith of Black Sports Online. There's little information on how long he'll be in the non-contact jersey, but there's little doubt he's ready to be back at full strength.
At this point, the quarterback race has yet to be settled.
Offensive Line Is Using Fall Camp to Work on Chemistry
During Big Ten media days, Ameer Abdullah made some interesting comments about the offensive line to the Omaha World-Herald's Sam McKewon. “The funny thing is, the Big Ten, they don’t even know,” Abdullah said. “They don’t even know. A storm. A storm. They will know.”
While the offensive line battles it out for key starting spots, the group has been working on its chemistry. And from the group's perspective, it's already there.
"The whole O-line in our room, we're a really tight-knit group," Zach Sterup said, per Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star. "We're all friends on and off the field. So we gel pretty easy no matter who is in there. Ryne Reeves came up (with the top group), and we didn't skip a beat. So we can plug guys in and we're all on the same page."
While the offensive line may be young, that chemistry will be key. It's what will take a group with relatively little experience and make it work quicker than expected.
“We got a lot of guys who haven’t necessarily played a lot but who have been around for a while, who know the system, know what’s going on, know the plays, know the calls and stuff,” said Ryne Reeves, as the Omaha World-Herald's Sam McKewon reported. “We’re a real close-knit unit and we work real well together. We know the day-in, day-out operation. It’s pretty smooth right now.”
Injuries (and a Suspension) Hurt Preseason Depth
There's no denying at this point that the Huskers had an injury-plagued first week of fall camp. Nebraska lost nickel back Charles Jackson, linebacker Michael Rose and running back Adam Taylor all to various injuries. It even appears as if Tommy Armstrong got a bit dinged up, as he was seen in a green non-contact jersey during Monday's practice.
Adding insult to injury, LeRoy Alexander was also suspended from the team with no reason given by Pelini or the university.
At this point, Husker fans are feeling a little helpless. Only one week into the season, and injuries have already taken key competitors from the team.
While the losses of Jackson, Rose, Taylor and Alexander hurt, they don't mean Nebraska has been left empty-handed. Instead, it just hurts the team's depth a bit. The biggest hit is to the defense, as the I-backs still have Ameer Abdullah, Imani Cross and Terrell Newby.
Injuries going forward, especially on defense, will be of concern, as there aren't many players to fall back on in key positions.
The Huskers can only hope for a much quieter second week on the injury front.
Despite All Else, Team Morale Is Fine
Fans don't need to worry too much. Pelini was clear that, despite all else, morale is fine.
"Our team morale is fine. You guys will make more of it. I feel sorry for those kids. But as far as going forward, we got a lot of good players, we got a lot of good competition, we'll be just fine," he said, per Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star.
Wide receiver Kenny Bell echoed Pelini's sentiments, as Christopherson reported:
You never want to see that happen to one of your guys. It's sad, it really is. But we're fine. A lot of people, I think, see all these injuries and act like the world is ending. I get a lot of questions like, 'Oh, how we doing? We alright?' It's like, 'Yeah, we're fine.'
I don't know why it's such a surprise. It's every single year. When you play football every single day of your life, during this time people get hurt. We're not out here playing baseball. We're playing football. We're tackling each other, hitting each other every single day. Injuries happen. Guys know that comes with the territory. ... And when one guy goes down, we expect another guy to step up. It's just the nature of the beast.
Fellow wide receiver Jamal Turner agreed. "We're a family here and when someone goes down it affects the whole team," Turner said, per Christopherson. "But you tell the backups, 'Hey, step up. We need you now.'"
For now, it seems like injuries and tough luck aren't holding the team's attitude down.