Fresno State vs. Nebraska, 9.3.16

Nebraska freshman running back Tre Bryant (18) scores in the fourth quarter of Saturday's game against Fresno State at Memorial Stadium.

Their shirts are officially burnt to a crisp.

This is not a bad thing, understand. Not from the standpoint of Mike Riley, who gave positive reviews to the first-week performances of the four true freshmen chosen to play right away this year.

Cornerback Lamar Jackson, running back/return man Tre Bryant, punter Caleb Lightbourn and special-teamer JoJo Domann all drew mention from the Husker head coach during Monday's news conference.

Riley said Bryant had "maybe a better-looking return than we had all of last year," on his one kick return opportunity in Saturday's Husker win, hitting the crease hard on a 32-yarder for a team that averaged just 17.6 per return last season.

Bryant also had five carries for 36 yards and a touchdown late in the win.

The coach felt Lightbourn also held steady on an emotional night in which he took over the job that would have belonged to the late Sam Foltz.

Lightbourn had a punt blocked. But that was a team meltdown, not his. After a shaky 29-yarder to start following an emotional tribute to Foltz, Lightbourn averaged 36.2 yards on four kicks.

"He obviously had lot of different emotions going on," Riley said. "I thought he handled the night well. His get-off time was good. He gets a punt hammered, which was not his fault. ... And he kept his poise."

Riley said the same of Jackson, who was tested often by Fresno State while he played cornerback in Nebraska's nickel package.

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It wasn't a breeze. He got beat on a slant for a touchdown. He also lost out on another play on a well-placed fade pass down the sideline.

The 6-foot-3, 195-pound corner had close coverage on both, but didn't quite make the play. He did make some others.

"I thought it was good for him and I don't think he shied away from anything," Riley said. "I thought he played pretty darn aggressively and confidently, made a nice tackle."

Much to learn? Yes. Jackson is new to the position, having played safety in high school.

"It's either you play or you just sit around," said defensive coordinator Mark Banker. "We might as well play him now to see where we go."

Riley said it's not known who the Huskers will use in their nickel package now that Nate Gerry and Antonio Reed are back. Their return opens up Aaron Williams as another option to slide in at nickel back.

But Riley wants to find a way to play Jackson.

"We like Lamar Jackson on the field and I think he's going to do nothing but this ...." Riley raised his hand to the top of his head. "He's going to grow."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7439 or bchristopherson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.


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