CHICAGO — Nebraska football coach Mike Riley said Tuesday afternoon that he has discussed with sophomore defensive back JoJo Domann the possibility of redshirting this season, and would also consider that route with senior cornerback Chris Jones.
The Domann redshirt isn't a huge surprise, giving the nature of his injury, which required surgery on his ACL, and the timetable for his return, which is roughly sometime in October.
Domann himself said earlier in July that the idea of redshirting was appealing.
"I just want to make sure I don't re-injure myself," Domann told the Journal Star. "And I know Coach (Riley) and I are on the same page. We're in good hands with Joshua Kalu and Aaron Williams back there right now, and Kieron Williams rotating in. So I think unless I'm going to be needed a lot, we're planning on just redshirting."
The redshirt plan makes sense, Riley said, because Domann was beginning to see his potential come to the surface.
"I think JoJo is one of those guys that started to see how good he could be. All of a sudden in spring ball he's getting this vision, after having not redshirted and played a little bit (as a freshman), he's getting this vision, and he's getting really well-coached, and he's performing and he's starting to gain this picture of, 'Whoa, I can do this. And I can be good at it,'" Riley said during Big Ten Media Days. "So I think, and I don't mean to speak for him, but if I could I would say that he's thinking I'm gonna save this years and I'm gonna have three more good years ahead of me to play. And that's exciting. And I would be excited about that too."
However, with Nebraska's sudden lack of depth in the defensive backfield thanks to Jones' injury, Riley left open the possibility that Domann could try to get on the field. He likened it to offensive lineman Jerald Foster's situation last season, when he unexpectedly returned to the lineup in November after tearing his MCL in August.
Riley was taking a more patient approach with Jones, who injured his MCL during summer workouts, underwent surgery, and is expected to be out four to six months.
"I don't want to go that far with Chris, because I haven't talked with him except on the phone about this since he was hurt, before and after his surgery," Riley said. "I thought, frankly, on purpose, I'd let the dust settle before I even approached him with any ideas or thoughts or get his ideas or thoughts, because I thought too soon after having that surgery was not very smart to do."
No secondary moves yet: On the physical side of things, Riley said no decisions have been made about an NU secondary that is trying to reorganize after the knee injury to Jones.
Riley said Monday on the Husker Sports Network that he wasn't interested in moving Joshua Kalu back to corner. But Tuesday he left open the possibility of moving pieces around.
"The option of some movement is interesting, whether it's Josh Kalu, or maybe Lamar Jackson going to the field (side)," Riley said. "I think that we have to be careful, because you don’t want to all of a sudden weaken yourself at multiple spots by making a move."
Riley also said Nebraska's lack of depth in the defensive backfield complicates matters further.
"The multiple loss of JoJo Domann and Chris Jones is not good. I cannot spin that in a positive way," Riley said. "But with that, we have to go forward, turn that page, and make it good. We can not ever use this as a reason or an excuse. But it is something that we have to study in the next few days, make a decision on, and go forward, and say this is going to be really good."
First impressions: Riley's initial appearance at Big Ten Media Days sounded a lot like his press conferences in Nebraska.
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The Huskers head coach spoke Tuesday morning during the second day of the conference's annual gathering. The first question to the NU head man was about new starting quarterback Tanner Lee. The second was about Bob Diaco and the 3-4 defense.
"I am very, very interested in this team. There's been a lot of changes," Riley said. "How that is all put together with what we have done defensively and the fact that we don't have a quarterback who has played a down for Nebraska yet, I don't know how that narrative sounds in general, but that's where we are.
"But I do have a lot of faith and I am very interested in what this is going to look like going forward."
Friday night lights: Riley covered a number of topics, both at the podium and in a hallway after his 15-minute media session in the morning, and again during a one-hour podium session in the afternoon.
Chief among them was the issue of playing Friday night games. Nebraska will play at Illinois on Friday, Sept. 29, and while Riley said he wasn't passionate either way on the topic, he did address both sides of the issue.
"I understand TV, and windows, and opportunity. I get that," Riley said. "I think that what’s happened for college football and programs, and athletic departments with the money involved and things like the Big Ten Network for all sports is a big deal."
On the other hand, Riley said, breaking the regular routine of preparation for a Saturday game doesn't exactly make life easier for a football coach.
"I hate that, as a matter of fact," Riley said. "I’m a real routine guy. The countdown to a game, I don’t like changing that. So adjusting that way is no fun for me. Because you always have a mystery of where your team is physically and what you need to do, and then what you need to do in the actual preparation part of it."
Morgan, Reed, making amends: On the subject of wide receiver Stanley Morgan and safety Antonio Reed, who were charged with marijuana possession in early May in Florida, Riley said no final disciplinary decisions have been made in regards to whether the duo will miss any playing time once the season starts.
"We have taken some great, gigantic steps with those two kids who got in trouble in Florida since that time," Riley said. "I've been really proud of the work that's been done behind the scenes in that way."
Injury report: Riley updated the injury status of linebackers Alex Davis (stress fracture) and Avery Roberts (foot), saying Davis would be ready to go at the start of camp, with Roberts not yet at 100 percent but on schedule to be fully healed in time for the season opener against Arkansas State.
Riley also mentioned Daishon Neal among the Huskers with recurring aches and pains that NU will need to keep a close eye on.
"That's another very important factor in looking at your team physically, is that some guys need to be monitored in a different way because of their history," Riley said. "And so we have to always be mindful of that and do a good job of it."