Friday Night Lights, 6/23/17

Huskers' Tristan Gebbia (14) laughs with assistant coach John Parrella during Friday Night Lights camp June 23 at Memorial Stadium.

Fall camp practice: No. 12.

Gear: Helmets and full pads.

Format: 90-play scrimmage in Memorial Stadium.

More praise for Gebbia

Two days after Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said true freshman quarterback Tristan Gebbia was pushing Patrick O'Brien for the No. 2 spot behind Tanner Lee, coach Mike Riley had more praise for the California signal caller.

"I think that Tristan, by the time we get to the season, would function well in a game. I really do," Riley said after Saturday's practice. "I just think he's a player. I know that's just an old cliche, but I think he's a player. His work ethic is off the charts. He is up there (in the film room) as much as the coaches."

Heady stuff indeed for a player who seemed likely to redshirt when he first arrived on campus. While Gebbia may play his way out of that redshirt, Riley would still like to give the youngster more time to learn the position.

"Now, I don't think (playing early) is the best thing for him," Riley said. "But I also know, for a purpose, we keep that room small. But the other side of that is, he's got to be ready.

O'Brien solid: Riley also praised O'Brien on Saturday, saying the 6-foot-4, 230-pound redshirt freshman had a couple of "great drives today and made plays."

"I think we are fortunate at that position," Riley said. "And here we sit without a guy that's taken one snap for Nebraska. But I'm excited about those guys."

Tight ends stepping up: Riley named five players at the tight end position who have made strides this fall while saying he was "encouraged" about the progress made there.

"This position could have a little depth to it, and really now becomes a factor in being different, and being good, instead of just getting by like I thought we were going to have to do in some fashion," Riley said.

Riley said No. 1 tight end Tyler Hoppes, a Lincoln Southwest graduate and Wayne State transfer, has "stepped up like a man," and Norfolk senior Connor Ketter has worked hard to come back from injury.

Riley said Jack Stoll and Matt Snyder have "a ton of ability" and even redshirt freshman Branden Hohenstein, from tiny Jackson (population 215), has shown flashes.

Huskers scrimmage in stadium: Nebraska worked through a 90-play scrimmage in a sun-splashed Memorial Stadium, spending extra time on what Riley termed "critical situations" — red zone and two-minute drill, specifically. The team's younger players also got about 25 plays at the end of the scrimmage.

The good weather had the head coach in an upbeat mood.

"Where else would you want to be on an early Saturday afternoon?" Riley said. "We all going out to the lake this afternoon?"

Riley said the top units went against each other for one full-speed drive before going into their situational work.

He said he saw several positives — "some play-action, down-the-field throws, some good efficiency on third down stuff; made a nice touchdown pass in the red zone," Riley said.

He also liked NU's efficiency in the run game.

O-line moving forward: Nebraska's offensive line, one of the biggest question marks heading into the season, "made a step forward" Saturday, Riley said.

While there has been improvement, though, the search continues for depth and for players to close the gap between the top unit and the rest of the pack.

"Finding the next guy is still part of the process. I think forever we'll be looking for that elusive spot on the offensive line where you have 10 guys you feel good about playing in the games," Riley said. "That's a day we're going to go out and celebrate when we get to that point."

Injury report: Running back Tre Bryant practiced after sitting out earlier in the week to give his aching knee a rest. Receiver JD Spielman sat out Saturday's workout.

Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Jake Kitten was the only Husker to leave the scrimmage with an injury, being pulled after banging up a knee. Riley said he didn't know the extent of Kitten's injury.

One week to go: With three weeks before the season opener against Arkansas State, Riley said the Huskers will have one more week of training camp before beginning to drill more specifically into preparations for the Red Wolves.

Riley said he and his staff have asked for "first-day enthusiasm" from Nebraska's players as camp wears on, and while fatigue may be starting to set in, Riley said he hasn't seen it.

"I told the staff last night, I don't get the impression that this team has had any of those camp doldrums," Riley said. "I really like this team. We have had no drama in our camp; it's been low-maintenance. It's been a good picture."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7436 or cbasnett@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.


Husker basketball reporter

A Ravenna native, Chris covers the University of Nebraska men's basketball team and assists with football coverage. He spent nearly 10 years covering sports at the Kearney Hub and nearly four years at the Springfield News-Leader in Springfield, Mo.

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