Husker notes: Mike Riley grateful to use consultant Gary Darnell as resource; End of practice is home stretch

Husker notes: Mike Riley grateful to use consultant Gary Darnell as resource; End of practice is home stretch
World-Herald News Service

LINCOLN — The Oregon State football building Mike Riley moved into in 1997 had offices for him and nine assistant coaches. There were a couple of other spaces for graduate assistants and operations staff, along with a full-time secretary.

Nebraska’s coach reflected on his days of more limited resources when asked after Saturday’s practice about defensive consultant Gary Darnell. The Huskers are paying the 68-year-old $110,000 to help with the installation of the 3-4 defense, drawing on his experience coaching with defensive coordinator Bob Diaco in the mid-2000s.

Darnell was hired July 24 after the death of Bob Elliott, who coached safeties in spring practice before relinquishing the job to Scott Booker.

“I think that Gary is really good for me,” Riley said. “In the evenings, I say, ‘OK, what did you see today? What do you think about the team? Where should we emphasize it?’

“And he’s been around football for as long as I have, so I love talking to him. And he spends the whole day in the office with the defensive staff. So he’s a big part of opinions and thoughts.

“I think for what we needed … When everything happened with Coach Elliott, Coach Elliott brought an expertise and experience that was unique. We’re very fortunate now to have Gary to bring his expertise to us.”

End of practice is home stretch

Nebraska started a new post-practice regimen that includes two stretching stations — one of which uses tension bands — and one cold tub station. It’s designed as the cool-down segment of practice, but strength coach Mark Philipp was animated during the session, exhorting players to stretch correctly.

“We used to just stretch in our position groups after practice, and now this is much more organized and much more thoughtful about the day-to-day thing as what you should do,” Riley said.

Riley continues to approve of the NCAA’s decision to end two-a-days — though he anticipates rule changes for next season based on coach feedback and backlash — because it’s physically better for the players.

“We can spend more time with body maintenance than ever because there’s not a practice at the end of the day,” he said.

Quick hits

» Riley said all four quarterbacks “functioned OK” during Saturday’s scrimmage. That includes starter Tanner Lee as well as backups Patrick O’Brien, Tristan Gebbia and Andrew Bunch.

» Riley’s description of outside linebackers Alex Davis and Sedrick King: “Physically, they’re prototypes.” Both are roughly 6-foot-5, 250 pounds.

» Riley confirmed freshman preferred walk-on wideout Kade Warner broke a hand after his Pro Football Hall of Fame father, Kurt Warner, tweeted the news earlier in the week. In response, redshirt freshman wideout Ty Chaffin from Burwell has been added to the 105-man roster.

» Riley said he had no inside knowledge of NU’s pending 11-year, nearly $130 million apparel extension with Adidas, but he likes the direction Adidas has taken in the last three years.

“It’s progressive, creative, hard-working,” Riley said. “They’re fighting hard. Adidas has grown, branding-wise, in three years, a lot, and it’s due to their work. They’re making a big move.”

Riley said the service with Adidas — which has an on-campus representative — has been “outstanding.”

» The special teams arrangement — with Booker coordinating and all other position coaches helping — is “functioning pretty well,” Riley said. It’s a change from his previous experience using a single coordinator, Bruce Read, to handle everything.

Booker is “really energetic,” Riley said. “I think he grabs kids in a really good way mentally, psychologically, he grabs them, teaches them. It’s a good picture.”

» The Huskers won’t practice Sunday. They’ll resume drills Monday, working out in the mornings throughout the week. The media is expected to be able to watch Thursday’s practice.

» One NU outside linebacker target, Cameron Latu of Salt Lake City, committed to Alabama on Friday, while Dallas defensive tackle Calvin Avery committed on Friday to Illinois. Avery, who played with current Husker freshman Damion Daniels at Bishop Dunne High School, visited Nebraska for the spring game.

» Former Nebraska running back Roy Helu attended practice Saturday.

» Add watermelon wedges to NU’s post-practice snack rotation.

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