Mixing Riley's system with QB's skills challenges Nebraska
CHICAGO (AP) Nebraska's offense will look different under new coach Mike Riley.
In his first year with the Huskers, Riley inherits a quarterback in Tommy Armstrong with a skill set that does not match what the coach so often had to work with at Oregon State.
The transition to Riley's pro-style offense in the spring from the version of the spread the Cornhuskers ran under Bo Pelini for eight seasons was not pretty.
''Some of it looked like football,'' Riley said Friday at his first Big Ten media days. ''Not totally yet. But some of it looked like football. So we've got a long way to go in that.''
Riley's easygoing attitude and welcoming personality have been well received by Nebraska fans and the Cornhuskers, especially after the fiery and gruff Pelini.
''He is the nicest person I have ever met,'' Nebraska receiver Jordan Westerkamp said.
Nice won't be enough when the Huskers start playing games. Riley said the challenge for him and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf will be taking what Armstrong and the Huskers have done well and trying to incorporate some of that into his offense, which is usually built around prototypical pocket passers.
''So we've had to do a lot of studying and being specific about what that really is and how that looks. And so we kind of dove into some of that stuff in spring practice and will continue with it,'' Riley said. ''And at the same time, we wanted to be selective about what we've done and done well in our past that would fit the skill set of the people that we have here.''
Armstrong passed for 2,695 yards last season, though he only completed 53 percent of his passes. Riley wants his quarterbacks ideally to be pushing 70 percent completion rates.
In the Huskers' previous offense, Armstrong could make significant contributions as a runner. He went for 705 yards and six touchdowns last season.
Armstrong said the designed runs, zone-reads and run-pass options that were the bedrocks of the previous offensive system are not part of Riley's attack.
''You can't bail yourself out with your feet. You have to complete passes and be accurate and give your guys a chance to get the ball,'' Armstrong said.
Armstrong's improvement is paramount with the departure of star running back Ameer Abdullah, who gave the Huskers' a one of the best playmakers in the country.
Terrell Newby is Nebraska's top I-back coming out of spring, Imani Cross ran for 384 yards and five touchdowns last season and more help appears to be on the way.
Jordan Stevenson, a four-star recruit from Dallas who signed with Wisconsin but could not meet eligibility requirements for the school, tweeted on Thursday that he plans to attend Nebraska.
Riley said nothing is official yet but he could confirm that Nebraska was recruiting Stevenson.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP