BYU pass rush will give green O-line early test
LINCOLN — Nebraska might find out in a hurry how ready its offensive line is with just one fulltime starter returning.
Offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said this week that the Huskers will have to be ready for BYU to show both three and four-man fronts, mix in a variety of line stunts and also bring other sorts of pressure Saturday.
It should test the communication and coordination of the line, which returns Alex Lewis at left tackle but will go new look with Dylan Utter at left guard, Ryne Reeves at center, Chongo Kondolo at right guard and redshirt freshman Nick Gates at right tackle.
Those last four have a total of two career starts among them.
"We've had a lot of good looks against us from our own defense through camp," Langsdorf said. "It's a new group that's working together and getting comfortable playing with each other, but they've done a nice job. They've handled our pressure stuff pretty well lately."
Langsdorf called the BYU front "tough and physical inside, and they're big." It won't just be on NU's line, however, when the Cougars' other pressure schemes will include "guys coming from every different direction."
"We've got to be able to handle that and be able to protect the quarterback," he said, "and that'll be big for the tight end and the backs as well as the line."
Lewis said the line is excited for the challenge.
"BYU, they're going to run the 3-4," he said. "They'll get into some even fronts. They like to blitz a lot. They're a heavy blitz team. So we've got to be aware of that and be able to pick it up.
"They blitz a lot on third downs, and that's something we're going to look forward to, especially as an offensive line unit because it's really going to test our skill and our cohesion. To see if we can recognize that and pick it up."
QB improves deep accuracy
Junior Tommy Armstrong's improved accuracy downfield stood out to coach Mike Riley toward the end of preseason practices.
Riley has indicated in several interviews that stretching the field with a vertical passing game, particularly with playaction, will be an important element of the attack. Armstrong and his receivers have to connect to keep defenses honest.
And that's why Riley has been pleased to see more long completions from his starting quarterback.
"The thing that I've noticed as of late, his accuracy down the field has been good," Riley said. "He's completed more balls for big chunks than we ever did in the spring, or what we were doing early in fall camp."
Armstrong completed 33 percent of throws longer than 25 yards last year. He ended up averaging 14.7 yards per completion.
WR corps close to healthy
The recent return of Brandon Reilly, Sam Burtch and Taariq Allen has the receiving corps about as healthy as it has been in the last month, with De'Mornay Pierson-El remaining the exception.
Langsdorf said it is "good to get the guys back and feeling good and getting their legs back, ready to play Saturday."
Reilly has been among those bothered by hamstring trouble.
"Even from yesterday to today I felt a big difference and feel confident," Reilly said. "So I'm happy where things are."
Wide receivers coach Keith Williams is obsessive about every aspect of receiver play, and hamstring maintenance is one of them. Even though Williams noted he's not a doctor, he has plenty of experience as a former player with bad hamstrings.
"I had guitar strings. I didn't even have hamstrings," Williams said. "I was awful. You know, you just have to hydrate, and everybody's different. Everybody's body chemistry is different. There are guys who don't stretch much and just take off running and don't pull anything. You've got guys who do yoga and pull them by jogging. You just have to know your body, and if you're a person who has hamstring history, be cautious."
Ofense preps in stadium
The offense and defense practiced separately Monday and Tuesday, with the offense inside Memorial Stadium both days.
"Just for the sight lines, and just kind of getting comfortable playing here," Langsdorf said. "I think it's a good idea. For whatever the reason, those deep throws are just different when you're out in the open, as opposed to enclosed in the stadium. So we like to get the feel for our home field."
Langsdorf said the Huskers will practice often in the stadium when the weather is favorable.
Williams has a second college team to follow this season: Fresno State. That's where his son, Keyan, is a redshirt freshman for the Bulldogs. Father said he expects his son to play this year, so he'll be keeping closer track of how Fresno State is doing.
But he could have a hard time tracking down a live shot of Fresno State's Thursday night opener. The Bulldogs host Abilene Christian. The game is scheduled to appear on Mountain West Conference video.
"My wife's on it," Keith Williams said.
Keyan came to Nebraska over the summer to work with his dad on routes.
"He and I have a great relationship," Keith Williams said. "He communicates through text messages. Videos help a lot. I'll be connected with him."