Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

Nebraska Begins Football

Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee (13) throws on the first day of preseason practice, in Lincoln, Neb., Sunday, July 30, 2017, with quarterback Patrick O'Brien (12) watching. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

At the close of Sunday's practice -- the first of Nebraska's preseason camp -- Mike Riley told reporters of a minor problem he noticed.

The players pushed the limits at times as far as being overly physical even though it was a helmets-only workout, as mandated by NCAA rules.

"You've got to pull them back," Riley said. "We don't have shoulder pads on, so you don't want the big collisions. You've got to practice appropriately when you're in the trenches. You've got be careful down the field.

"I think it's still good to break in like this and get a little bit of a foundation before we put more gear on."

So, the guys were fired up and ready to battle. That's always a good thing in football.

We're fired up, too.

Football is officially back.

Ten quick observations from Day One:

1. We better start with Tanner Lee, the new starter at quarterback. He looked good throwing the ball -- not perfect, but good. He sees the field well, enabling him to find soft spots in the defense. Riley praised the offense's execution.

That said, Lee did throw an interception on a tipped pass that outside linebacker Luke Gifford grabbed. What's more, there were at least a couple instances of apparent miscommunication with receivers.

But, hey, it's only Day One. And I'm not exactly Jon Gruden. So, I'll stop there with the quarterback evaluations.

2. We heard Lee last week praise true freshman receiver Tyjon Lindsey's speed.

Well, we saw it for ourselves and ... wow. He's going to be prominent in the offensive plan if he continues to show he can handle a jump up in competition.

I'm betting he'll handle it fine. We'll get a better idea later in camp when the pads come on. Stay tuned.

3. One more about Lindsey: I like his workmanlike demeanor. He's all-business, at least he was on Day One. And if he dropped a pass, I didn't see it.

4. Conor Young, however, did have a couple drops, including one on a well-thrown deep pass from Tristan Gebbia. A 6-foot-2, 180-pound sophomore walk-on, Young did a good job of putting himself in position to make the catch in traffic. But you've got to close the deal.

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5. I often get asked about punt returners. Who will handle those duties? Sunday, we saw five players catching punts: Lindsey, Young, Keyan Williams, Dicaprio Bootle and Stanley Morgan Jr. I was surprised to see Morgan back there. He's the best player on offense. His load is heavy enough.

Thing is, De'Mornay Pierson-El was absent, as he's attending a sister's wedding. It has to be his job to lose, right?

6. There's a good story brewing in this camp. Jeremiah Stovall joined the team in January of 2016 after being selected from a walk-on tryout. A sophomore from Omaha (Creighton Prep), he's working as one of the top five cornerbacks, seeing action Sunday with the second unit.

We'll be writing soon about Stovall, on that you can count.

The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder plays with confidence. He's even a bit feisty. He tried to strip the ball from Devine Ozigbo as the 6-foot, 230-pound running back charged upfield. Ozigbo had a tight grip and held on. But he shot Stovall a glare.

Yeah, the walk-on is getting noticed.

7. Cole Conrad was the center with the first-string line, with Michael Decker going out with the second unit at center. Remember, position battles are ongoing.

In addition to Conrad, it was the usual suspects on the first-team line: David Knevel and Nick Gates at the tackle positions, and Tanner Farmer and Jerald Foster at the guard spots.

The second-unit line had, in addition to Decker, John Raridon and Boe Wilson at the guard spots, with Matt Farniok at right tackle and Christian Gaylord on the left side.

Raridon, Wilson and Farniok are redshirt freshmen with seemingly bright futures.

8. Chris Jones watched the practice on crutches. It's sort of heart-wrenching to see because he clearly has a passion for the game. Talk about all-business.

Here's hoping for a speedy return from his knee surgery.

9. I didn't witness this, but Clark Grell tells me Caleb Lightbourn was booming punts. Nebraska needs to be much better this season in that part of special teams.

10. One more on Lee: I also like his on-field demeanor. It's a mix of the proper seriousness with some lightheartedness as well.

Lightheartedness can become particularly important as camp heats up, and it will heat up.

It was already lively on Day One.

You heard it here: Mike Riley audio from after the Huskers first practice

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.