In Mike Riley's ideal scenario, Tristan Gebbia doesn't play a snap for Nebraska until 2018.

Yet the Husker football coach also knows depth at the quarterback position isn't such that you can rule out anything here in mid-April.

"Right now what he is headed for is what Patrick (O'Brien) headed for a year ago," Riley said after Saturday's Red-White Spring Game. "We would like to redshirt Tristan, but we only have four quarterbacks right at this time."

Gebbia, who threw 45 passes working with the reserves during the final practice, currently stands behind Tanner Lee and O'Brien.

The health of those quarterbacks figures to be the main decider in making sure Gebbia can grow behind the scenes for one more year.

"He will ready himself to be the third-string quarterback, and we would hope that he would not play. That would be our approach," Riley said. "And once we reach some point in the season, and that is all clean, and looks like it did when it started, then we'd say, 'OK, we're going to find another angle here on how to do this.'"

That is, at some point far enough into the season, Husker coaches will plan to redshirt Gebbia no matter what comes up, just as they did with O'Brien in 2016.

While his first game appearance may have to wait, Gebbia's first impression with Husker fans was undoubtedly a good one on Saturday.

The 6-foot-3, 180-pounder took most of the snaps for the White team, and a few for the Reds late. Playing with the reserve units, Gebbia actually threw nine more passes than Lee and O'Brien combined.

He finished 28-of-45 for 268 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. His best work came in the first half against the top defense when he conducted a 12-play, 75-yard march for a touchdown. Showing good pocket awareness and also some good mobility, Gebbia ran for a 4-yard touchdown to finish the drive.

"I think he is a heck of a young quarterback," Riley said, "and has done a nice job this spring, and made a whole bunch of plays today, I thought."

It's happening for Hoppes: Husker fans saw a whole lot more of the tight end in the passing game Saturday than they have been used to seeing.

The top tight end, senior Tyler Hoppes, caught four passes for 66 yards. Matt Snyder caught a pass. Jack Stoll caught one. And David Engelhaupt, playing with the White team, was a popular target for Gebbia, claiming four receptions for 54 yards.

Hoppes, a Lincoln Southwest grad, showed what he has all spring: He is going to be a key part of this offense in 2017 and seems to have a strong connection in particular with Lee.

"Every Wednesday and every Saturday in the offseason this winter, we kind of went out there, threw some routes," Hoppes said. "We didn't really do that last year too much. But this year, quarterback set it up.

"We tried to get all the tight ends and receivers down there to try to get the chemistry that we have today. That's kind of when we found it."

Hoppes' best grab was a 19-yarder across the middle in which he took a big hit from a safety. He stayed on the field a minute before walking off on his own power. All is fine.

He points out what his position coach Tavita Thompson always says, "You know you're going to get hit, you might as well catch the ball."

10th assistant long time coming: A rule passed Friday will give every FBS head coach the opportunity to do something Riley thinks should have happened long ago: hire a 10th full-time assistant coach.

"I think it's absolutely great. I think it's a long time coming ... I mean, let's face it, all around the country at this level, those guys are already there, they're already working," Riley said of grad assistants and interns who could fill those spots.

"It will be an easy hire for people, and we need it. The coaching, the mentoring of your own team with one more person is a big factor."

Riley reiterated that college football has the worst student-teacher ratio of all the sports.

"And the other thing is you'll have one more guy on the road recruiting, which is our lifeblood. ... I wish they would have activated it right now."

Yes, Riley and other head coaches can't officially hire that 10th full-time assistant until Jan. 9.

While Riley did not mention a name for the spot in his answer Saturday, grad assistant Thompson is thought to be a leading possibility. Certainly he'd be a popular pick with someone.

"I would definitely vouch for Tavita there," Hoppes said. "Very hard worker. I've learned more out of these past three years than I have from anybody else. I think he deserves a job."

Weber shut down: Chris Weber, the projected starter at strong-side inside linebacker, went to the sidelines early because of a sprained MCL and didn’t return.

"They just shut me down,” he said of the coaches. "But I’ll be good.”

He watched from the sidelines as his teammates stayed in a 4-3 defense all day — not their 3-4 base system. First-year defensive coordinator Bob Diaco didn’t want to give opponents a prime opportunity to scout his system.

Weber noted that the 4-3 is part of Nebraska's defensive playbook, but not an extensive part.

“We just wanted to work on tackling, leverage, pursuit — stuff that’s important to playing good defense,” Weber said.

It's a secret: The Blackshirts kept their 3-4 defensive scheme under wraps for Saturday's spring game. So, Freedom Akinmoladun, what should we expect to see in September?

"You're going to see a lot of different things coming out of (the 3-4)," the junior defensive lineman said. "(But) I can't really tell."

Can't tell because you don't know yet, or can't tell because it's a secret?

"It's a secret," Akinmoladun said.

What is known is Akinmoladun came to Nebraska as a tight end prospect before moving to defensive end prior to his redshirt freshman season. Now he's adjusting to being a field-side end in Diaco's system, which creates some new twists.

"Basically a new stance and new weight," said Akinmoladun, who is listed at 270 but said he needs to be around 280. "But everything else is kind of the same. There are certain techniques, certain things that we have learned from Coach (John Parrella)."

Spielman scores TD: Redshirt freshman wide receiver JD Spielman got to make his first big play in front of a crowd in Lincoln, being on the end of a pretty 30-yard touchdown pass by Lee in the second quarter.

“He put it exactly where only I could get it,” Spielman said.

Spielman redshirted last season when Nebraska had several experienced players at the wide receiver position, and Spielman was learning a new position after being a star running back in high school in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.

“I knew that waiting was going to be the best option for me because it gave me a whole season to prepare, work on my craft and get better,” Spielman said.

Spielman had four receptions for 70 yards Saturday, and also had a good showing during one of the Huskers’ other scrimmages this spring.

“I feel like I ended with a little momentum, but there is always room to get better, especially when now people are comparing you to like Jordan Westerkamp and stuff, because you got to be the one behind him,” Spielman said. “And obviously he’s a Husker great, so every day you just got to keep working hard.”

— Brian Christopherson, Clark Grell, Steven M. Sipple and Brent C. Wagner

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7439 or bchristopherson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.

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