The Huskers scored some significant news off the field with Mike Riley confirming Saturday that quarterback Tanner Lee has been cleared by the NCAA to play two more seasons after sitting out this fall.
"That's a great thing," said the Husker head coach. "We feel good about the picture that's present and looking into the future, that's pretty good."
Lee arrived this summer as a transfer from Tulane, knowing he'd have at least one year in the Husker program but hoping for two after sitting out 2016 because of NCAA transfer rules. He appealed for a sixth year, using a provision in the rules that addresses student-athletes who feel they were "run off" by a school.
In Lee's case, Tulane changed to a head coach who mostly runs the option, which didn't match up with the skill set of the pro-style quarterback.
Nebraska coaches are sure glad to have him now for two more years.
"One of the most valuable components, and if you haven't noticed it, you'll see it if you watch for it, he gets rid of the football just like that," Riley said. "That ability eliminates a lot of problems."
If the roster stays at it is, the Huskers should have a quarterback race in the spring that features the junior Lee, another junior in AJ Bush, as well as Patrick O'Brien, who would be a redshirt freshman if this fall goes as planned, and new arrival Tristan Gebbia.
The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Lee has two years of college experience, having started nine games last season, throwing for 1,639 yards and 11 touchdowns with seven picks while completing 51.8 percent of his throws for a team that struggled and was often playing from behind.
Just before his arrival in Lincoln, Lee explained his mindset to the Journal Star, saying, "I can't take a year off. I want to prepare week in and week out like I'm still playing. I don't want to lose that routine."
Tough call ahead on freshman back: True freshman running back Tre Bryant stood out in the last half of Saturday's scrimmage in Memorial Stadium while working against lower-unit defenses.
"Tre has done nothing but impressed us," Riley said. "He's smart, he's tough, he's fast, he's got good vision. He has not blinked when we've just put him in with the other guys. I don't know what we're going to do with him."
As in Husker coaches have a real tough call ahead in deciding whether or not to redshirt Bryant this season, given the depth at the position, with senior Terrell Newby and sophomores Devine Ozigbo and Mikale Wilbon all in the picture.
Even with that trio around, the 5-11, 200-pound Bryant showed why Husker coaches have a decision to make. His best run may have been his last one, when he shrugged off the tackles of a few reserve defenders and dove into the end zone from a few yards out.
"It's a tough one," Riley said of the decision. "I think he could play, but I think our back situation is pretty darn good, so I don't want to make it cloudy or be unfair with him. So I don't know yet."
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Thumbs-up after frightening injury: There was a scary moment near the end of the practice when true freshman linebacker Greg Simmons stayed down on the field after a collision with a receiver.
Action paused for about 20-25 minutes as Husker trainers used extreme caution in treating his neck area. Simmons was taken off the field on a cart, but gave everyone a thumbs-up. Teammates Joshua Kalu and Michael Rose-Ivey walked off next to the cart.
"He's got good feeling, good movement in all his extremities," Riley said. "He was coherent, he was answering questions."
Simmons will get further tests, "and we're hoping that's all confirmed that he is OK."
Scrimmage review: Riley said he "liked the efficiency" of his team during Saturday's scrimmage. There was just one false start and one offside penalty.
First-stringers received about 25 plays. The offense drove into opposing territory on its first two drives only to stall.
"You would like to see us finish those drives, but we were encouraged with some plays in there," Riley said.
The rundown on the quarterbacks?
"I thought Tommy (Armstrong) had some good plays, and some plays that were some real good Tommy plays," including a bootleg throw to Brandon Reilly that was "like clockwork."
Ryker Fyfe struggled but didn't get a lot of help from the offensive line, Riley felt. AJ Bush is "elevating." O'Brien is a "talented, young kid." And Lee? "Well, you saw him. He's pretty good."
Injuries: Several key Huskers sat out, though it sounds as if all are expected to return soon.
Linebacker Rose-Ivey (knee) is day-to-day, and wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp (groin) was held out for precautionary reasons. NU also is being cautious with tight end Cethan Carter and linebacker Chris Weber (concussion symptoms), defensive back Charles Jackson (hamstring) and Khalil Davis (knee), who Riley said "should be back pretty soon."
4's all over: Several Husker staffers wore red T-shirts with the No. 4 on them. Hardly coincidence, given that five-star wide receiver recruit Joseph Lewis was in town. That's his number.
Cheers: Seniors Alonzo Moore, Rose-Ivey and Corey Whitaker all graduated Saturday.