LINCOLN — Nebraska coach Mike Riley had to make an unscheduled training camp pit stop with the media Thursday night to announce five player suspensions for the Sept. 5 opener against BYU.
He wouldn’t give names. He wouldn’t give specific reasons why.
“Obviously, it’s for a team violation,” Riley said. “And then we will be anxious to have those guys back in the fold after the first game.”
It was just as obvious Riley didn’t want to be talking about player suspensions at all. But a Portland Tribune reporter — an old acquaintance from Riley’s Oregon State days — forced the matter after he attended — and then reported on — an NU coaches’ meeting where Riley discussed the suspensions with his director of football operations, Dan Van De Riet.
According to the Tribune, Van De Riet said five players would be suspended, including a defensive starter. The report did not name that starter nor would Riley. He wouldn’t commit to doing so at a later time, either.
“Let me think about how to do that,” Riley said when asked if he would name the suspended players prior to the kickoff against BYU: “It will become obvious when the kickoff occurs.”
One-game suspensions are not necessarily uncommon in college football, and they are sometimes not announced by the team nor discovered by the media when they involve redshirts or players buried on the depth chart. BYU is expected, in fact, to suspend several players for the Nebraska game as punishment for a brawl at the end of the Cougars’ bowl game last season.
Riley said he governs the team’s discipline with a basic mantra: Do the right thing.
“You can have a book this thick that has every idea you can come up with about rules,” Riley said. “And then all the sudden, you run into something that’s not in the book. It’s a new situation. So it’s not that we don’t talk about specifics. I do, every meeting, talk something specific about choices.
“But, like I tell them, if they really sit down and think about it, in the cool of the evening, by themselves, when nobody’s influencing them, and they’re thinking about doing ‘this’ or not doing ‘this,’ they know the right thing. They really do. We all can do that. We all know, too, that they’re young, and they can get involved with other stuff that influences what they’re doing, but the real, real crux of the matter is: There is a choice, and there is a right, and there is a wrong. So doing the right thing to me is simple, and it covers a lot of bases.”
It has been an offseason of roster turnover in Riley’s tenure.
» Fifth-year linebacker David Santos was dismissed from the program, which Riley called “unfortunate” at Big Ten media days.
» Safety LeRoy Alexander, suspended last season, transferred to Youngstown State.
» Quarterback Johnny Stanton was informed he wouldn’t be a part of the 105-man roster, so he chose to transfer to a California junior college.
» Three wideouts — Jariah Tolbert, Glenn Irons and Kevin Gladney — were dismissed from the program over the summer. Nebraska is now short on wideouts because of soft muscle tissue strains; on Thursday night, Jordan Westerkamp, Brandon Reilly, De’Mornay Pierson-El, Taariq Allen and Lane Hovey did not practice.
“I think I’m plagued with that,” Riley said Thursday night in reference to the receiver injuries. All are expected back soon. “That’s been an every year camp occurrence for me and we did everything we could about the conditioning of players and thoughts about how we practice to try to prevent it. The fact of the matter is: Camp is tough on the receivers and the defensive backs with the amount of running they do. You lose a couple, and then more work goes to a few more, and then they get overworked.”
Riley confirmed that wide receiver Sam Burtch underwent a “procedure” that will force him to miss the first game. According to the Tribune, Burtch suffered a ligament tear. Cornerback Chris Jones, Riley said, suffered the same injury as Burtch and will miss the first game. Running back Jordan Stevenson missed practice Thursday with an ankle injury.
Nebraska returns to practice Saturday night.
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