In late-afternoon heat, Nebraska donned full gear Tuesday for the first time in this preseason camp.
"This was the first day of extended interaction between our offense and defense," Husker coach Mike Riley said following the fifth full-scale practice this month. "It resulted in some obvious give-and-take.
"It was good for us, too. It was a little bit hot. Overall, I thought it was a good start in full gear."
As temperatures hovered in the low 90s, much of the practice was devoted to the run game, which jibes with Riley's offseason comments about wanting to improve that part of the offense.
"It went pretty well," said sophomore running back Devine Ozigbo. "It gassed us all. We all had some pretty good runs. But as soon as it was over, we were kind of tired."
The running backs, this early in camp, are getting used to reading linebackers, seeing holes and reacting accordingly, Ozigbo said.
"It was the first time doing it," he said. "It was better. But I expect it to get a lot better."
Although the heat affected the players, "We did what we intended to do in practice," Riley said.
Nebraska continued to tack on to the end of practice an extended period of work — 25 or so plays — designated specifically for true freshmen and younger players in general.
Shaking off rust: Part of the practice was highlighted by seven-on-seven work.
"I think it was all frankly a little rusty for everybody," Riley said. "We've been doing a lot of putting in plays (in previous practices). All of a sudden when you're doing it against people who are trying to stop it, things change. That's what happened today.
"We'll be better than that tomorrow."
Projected starting quarterback Tommy Armstrong, a senior, threw an interception in seven-on-seven action, as junior cornerback Chris Jones stepped in front of a receiver and made the grab. Riley said Armstrong wasn't quick enough with his decision to throw the ball, and the receiver's route wasn't the best, either.
"We want to be perfect," Riley said. "We're not always going to be ... I think it's something we'll just continue to get better at."
Injury report: Senior outside linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey, who has been plagued by injuries the past two seasons, sat out much of the practice with an apparent knee injury.
Rose-Ivey is a projected starter. He has appeared in 19 games at NU, with 10 starts.
"I don't know what happened — I'm going to find out," Riley said of the injury. "He went out with something with his knee. He was walking with ice. We're just hoping it's not significant."
Meanwhile, Jones had leg cramps, Riley said.
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Sizing up young linemen: Asked whether any true freshmen on offense could see playing time this season, offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf mentioned the possibility of a lineman or two, but admitted it's too early to tell.
Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh seemed less certain about Matt Farniok, Bryan Brokup, Boe Wilson or John Raridon playing, citing the huge learning curve for a newcomer playing up front.
"But they all have something about them," Cavanaugh said. "Farniok, for a big guy, has good feet. He's a physical guy. Boe Wilson has really good feet. He's a powerful kid right now. We're throwing John Raridon in at center and at guard, so he's just swimming.
"But I really love their athletic ability."
Receiving backs: Running backs Terrell Newby and Mikale Wilbon have always been naturals at catching the football out of the backfield, Langsdorf said.
While it hasn't been the same strength for Ozigbo, he has made significant strikes in that area.
"I think that's really shown up the last few days," Langsdorf said. "We've thrown some balls to all three of them out of the backfield, and it's looked good for all three of them. I do think Devine has worked on his hands."
Having Armstrong check down to his backs will be more of an emphasis this season, Langsdorf said, hence the importance of the backs displaying strong hands.
"It's so much better in terms of not forcing the ball down the field," the coach said. "They're dropping guys into coverage, we're not going to try to jam a ball in there. We're going to check the ball down and get a 4-yard completion that turns into an 8-yard gain, especially in the vertical game."
Running back depth: Newby, Ozigbo and Wilbon have been receiving an equal amount of repetitions in practice, Langsdorf said, with none of the three really standing out above another.
That's good, Langsdorf said.
“They all do some things well,” he said. “As we keep going, we’re going to feature some guys in different types of runs because of that.”
The depth chart will sort itself out, Langsdorf said, as the offense gets into more pass protection.
As for true freshman Tre Bryant, well, a redshirt is still uncertain.
“Right now, it’s hard to tell because he’s shown some good stuff, but with three good ones, it’s going to be hard to crack that lineup,” Langsdorf said. “He’s done some things on special teams, too, so we’re not counting him out. We’re going to look at him closely and give him enough work to see if we’re going to redshirt him.”
Up next: Nebraska returns to the practice field Wednesday. No post-practice media availability is scheduled.
-- Steven M. Sipple and Brian Rosenthal