CHICAGO — Mike Riley’s initial appearance at Big Ten Media Days sounded a lot like his press conferences in Nebraska.
“I am very, very interested in this team. There’s been a lot of changes,” Riley said. “How that is all put together with what we have done defensively and the fact that we don’t have a quarterback who has played a down for Nebraska yet, I don’t know how that narrative sounds in general, but that’s where we are.
“But I do have a lot of faith and I am very interested in what this is going to look like going forward.”
Riley covered a number of topics, both at the podium and in a hallway after his 15-minute media session.
Chief among them was the issue of playing Friday night games. Nebraska will play at Illinois on Friday, Sept. 29, and while Riley said he wasn’t passionate either way on the topic, he did address both sides of the issue.
“I understand TV, and windows, and opportunity. I get that,” Riley said. “I think that what’s happened for college football and programs, and athletic departments with the money involved and things like the Big Ten Network for all sports is a big deal.”
On the other hand, Riley said, breaking the regular routine of preparation for a Saturday game doesn’t exactly make life easier for a football coach.
“I hate that, as a matter of fact,” Riley said. “I’m a real routine guy. The countdown to a game, I don’t like changing that. So adjusting that way is no fun for me. Because you always have a mystery of where your team is physically and what you need to do, and then what you need to do in the actual preparation part of it.”
On the physical side of things, Riley said no decisions have been made about an NU secondary that is trying to reorganize after the knee injury to Chris Jones that will put the star corner on the shelf for 4-6 months.
Riley said Monday on the Husker Sports Network that he wasn’t interested in moving Josh Kalu back to corner. But Tuesday he left open the possibility of moving pieces around.
“The option of some movement is interesting, whether it’s Josh Kalu, or maybe Lamar Jackson going to the field (side),” Riley said. “I think that we have to be careful, because you don’t want to all of a sudden weaken yourself at multiple spots by making a move.”
Riley also said Nebraska’s lack of depth in the defensive backfield complicates matters further.
“The multiple loss of JoJo Domann and Chris Jones is not good. I cannot spin that in a positive way,” Riley said. “But with that, we have to go forward, turn that page, and make it good. We can not ever use this as a reason or an excuse. But it is something that we have to study in the next few days, make a decision on, and go forward, and say this is going to be really good.”
On the subject of wide receiver Stanley Morgan and safety Antonio Reed, who were charged with marijuana possession in early May, Riley said no final disciplinary decisions have been made in regards to whether the duo will miss any playing time once the season starts.
“We have taken some great, gigantic steps with those two kids who got in trouble in Florida since that time,” Riley said. “I’ve been really proud of the work that’s been done behind the scenes in that way.
Riley updated the injury statuses of linebackers Alex Davis (stress fracture) and Avery Roberts (foot), saying Davis would be ready to go at the start of camp, with Roberts not yet at 100 percent, but on schedule to be fully healed in time for the season opener against Arkansas State.
Riley also mentioned Daishon Neal among the Huskers with recurring aches and pains that NU will need to keep a close eye one.
“That’s another very important factor in looking at your team physically, is that some guys need to be monitored in a different way because of their history,” Riley said. “And so we have to always be mindful of that and do a good job of it.”