Mikale Wilbon was named Nebraska's offensive scout team MVP last fall.

His scout-team days appear to be over.

In fact, he's been getting repetitions with the first-string offense, and making his share of strong runs.

He did so again Tuesday during the fifth practice of preseason camp, and the first in full pads.

"Mikale, I think, has had a big jump from spring practice to today," Nebraska first-year coach Mike Riley said. "I think he's made very, very good improvement. I think that comes from him being able to utilize his ability.

"He has ability. We saw it in the offseason program in the winter. Then it becomes a matter of becoming comfortable enough to utilize that ability. It's exciting. He's doing well."

The 5-foot-8, 190-pound Wilbon, a redshirt freshman from Chicago, has benefited from learning the offense.

"Sometimes it's not necessarily that it's all that complicated," Riley said. "But it's a new language. But if he hears something, and he's not really comfortable or really sure what it is, then you're not as fast. It looks to me like he's playing with a lot of comfort and a lot of speed right now."

* QB ROTATIONS: Tommy Armstrong has had better practices than the one he had Tuesday. He was off the mark on a lot of throws, including at least a couple picks, although Riley noted the situation often was difficult as Nebraska was practicing third-and-long plays.

Junior Ryker Fyfe and redshirt freshman AJ Bush received most of the second-team snaps behind Armstrong. Redshirt freshman Zack Darlington had some success passing late in the scrimmage with lower-unit players.

"We have really tried to be fair with the quarterback rotations after Tommy's first-string reps," Riley said.

He said Bush and Fyfe have taken repetitions with the second string.

"I don't know if Zack has yet, but Zack was competing and doing that in the springtime," Riley said. "What we're trying to do is give them all reps with other units so they get a chance to play with the second-string linemen, receivers, backs, so on."

As for Armstrong, "Tommy will have some rough spots, but he always appears to bounce back," Riley said.

* RECEIVER INJURIES: Wideouts De'Mornay Pierson-El, Jordan Westerkamp, Taariq Allen and Sam Burtch watched from the sideline with assorted injuries Tuesday.

As a result of the receiver shortage, Riley was forced to use just one practice field instead of two.

Pierson-El had cramps and was sore. Riley indicated the other injuries also aren't especially serious, characterizing them as "camp stuff."

In other injury news, defensive tackle Vincent Valentine remains "day-to-day" with a knee contusion, Riley said.

* NO LOOKING BACK: Junior wide receiver Alonzo Moore said it took all of three days for him to decide he liked his new position coach, Keith Williams.

"I got one word: Gorilla. He's a gorilla. Inside and out. It wears off on us to where he's got baby gorillas — us receivers. And he wants us to be savages," Moore said.

Williams has preached to his his wide receivers to have a "gorilla" mindset and to have "savage professionalism" about their craft.

Moore has taken it to heart. His gifts were on display much of Tuesday including a crossing route where he ran free for a touchdown. He did have a drop on a long ball, but also shook the pants off a cornerback on one play at the line, causing Williams to erupt with praise, chasing him down the field.

Moore said he liked Williams after one of their first conversations. "He was like joked out, cracking jokes. I was like, 'Oh, yeah, this guy right here, we're going to make a real good connection."

Now a junior, Moore said he doesn't bother rewinding to last season, which showed flashes of his promise, but also came with some drops and inconsistency.

"I'm going to be honest with you, I don't look back," Moore said. "I feel like if I look back, then it's pushing me back. It's now and forward. There's no point in looking back because I know I can't go back. There's only things to move forward and get better."

* BRING IT ON: It comes as no surprise that senior defensive end Jack Gangwish was pleased for live contact to begin.

"It was great," he said. "This is a year-round sport. We're training all winter, all summer and at some point you kind of realize, it's like, 'Man, I just want to play some ball.' To have an opportunity to get out here on the practice field and do some tackling, do some live football — that's what guys want."

*SNAP REACTION: Nebraska gave a scholarship to a long-snapper in the most recent recruiting class. Jordan Ober is perhaps already showing why Mike Riley made that move.

Punter Sam Foltz is sure glad to have him around. “He throws darts,” Foltz said. “I mean, he throws darts. It’s awesome for me because there’s really no worries. I know where the snap’s going to be. It’s going to be right there, it’s going to be fast. I even told him, if it’s going to be a high snap, a low snap, it doesn’t matter. As long as it’s fast, it eliminates a lot of problems.”

Foltz is also enjoying the attention special teams is getting under new coordinator Bruce Read.

“The best thing is he’s a very good scheme guy … He’s going to put a lot of guys in good position to make plays. He’s going to put the opposing team in tough positions to return balls when we’re doing kickoffs and punts. And we’re going to be very dangerous in our return game, too. So we’re excited to have a guy pay attention to stuff like that, keep us on track. I think it’s going to be good for us.”


1. Tight end Matt Snyder made a nice extended catch working against reserve defenders on a throw from Darlington.

2. There was some 10-on-10 crime, when Josh Kalu made a pick of an Armstrong pass, only to have the ball ripped out of his hands by fellow No. 10 jersey wearer Jamal Turner as Kalu began his return.

3. True freshman Jordan Stevenson took some turns deep as a kick returner.

4. Dedrick Young continues to show his athleticism. A standout running back in high school, the true freshman linebacker leaped into the air to claim an interception, which he quickly returned to the end zone. He’s been there a few times in his life.

5. Nick Gates continued to see reps with the top offense at right tackle. He’s pushing for the job against senior Zach Sterup.

Steven M. Sipple, Brian Rosenthal, Brian Christopherson and Brent C. Wagner


Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

Sports reporter

Brent has worked at the Journal Star for 14 years. His beats include Nebraska volleyball, women's basketball and high school soccer and cross country.

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