Nebraska is coming out of spring depleted on defensive line
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) A Nebraska defensive line that went into spring practice short on experience will head into the fall further depleted.
Coach Mike Riley announced after Saturday's spring game that Greg McMullen has decided to give up football to concentrate on graduate school and Kevin Williams will transfer.
McMullen started all 26 games the past two seasons, mostly as an end. He was working at tackle this spring before taking a leave of absence that Riley announced a week ago. Riley said he originally thought McMullen would return to play his final season.
''He wants to go on with his life,'' Riley said. ''He has really got a vision about where he wants to go, what he wants to do, and I'm proud of him in a lot of ways. We'll miss him. As a guy around here, he's a really, really good person and a good football player, so it's kind of bittersweet for sure.''
Williams, a tackle who has battled injuries his entire career, will look to play at another school as a graduate transfer. He didn't practice this spring because of a wrist injury.
The Cornhuskers already were short-handed at tackle because Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine declared for the NFL draft after their junior seasons.
''It's obviously not easy to lose four defensive tackles in total that all had eligibility to come back,'' Riley said. ''You can't hide from that. That's not a good thing. I'm going to look at it half-full. I'm excited about the guys who are coming back.''
Kevin Maurice and twin brothers Khalil and Carlos Davis manned the tackle spots with the No. 1 defense in the spring game, with Maurice playing only the first quarter.
Others contending for playing time at tackle this fall will be Peyton Newell, who was with the No. 2 defense on Saturday, and Mick Stoltenberg, who was out this spring because of injury.
''We'll be absolutely fine, and we might be better than fine as this thing goes because there are some good football players there,'' Riley said.
Some observations from the spring game:
FANTASTIC FINISH: The scrimmage was mostly uneventful until the final play, when Kyle Kasun intercepted a Patrick O'Brien pass to give the White squad a 46-41 victory. The White team (defense) was awarded points for achievements such as three-and-outs, sacks and takeaways. Kasun earned a spot on the roster after going through a walk-on tryout a few weeks ago. Kasun's interception earned the White team six points, enough to overcome a one-point deficit. Teammates hoisted him onto their shoulders afterward. ''He was the one guy we picked from that tryout, and of course he then makes a lifetime-memory play,'' Riley said.
ARMSTRONG LEGS STRONG: The quarterback run game will continue to be a factor. Tommy Armstrong Jr. broke the two longest runs of the day on QB draws, going 44 yards against backup defenders and 37 yards untouched for a touchdown. He finished with 120 yards on six carries.
FYFE IS TOP BACKUP: Former walk-on Ryker Fyfe will go into the fall as the top backup to Armstrong. He alternated with Armstrong the first 13 series and completed 15 of 21 passes for 127 yards and netted 12 yards on seven carries. Riley said he's impressed with Fyfe's quick release and his accuracy on intermediate passes.
O'BRIEN'S DEBUT: O'Brien, the freshman early enrollee and star of the 2016 recruiting class, received a hearty cheer when he entered for the first time early in the fourth quarter. The four-star recruit from San Juan Capistrano, California, looked shaky on his first series, and he fumbled the snap to start of his second. He seemed to get more comfortable as he went along and displayed a strong arm. He was 6 of 10 for 59 yards.
ANOTHER BIG CROWD: Even after a 6-7 season, Nebraska fans still love the spring game. Attendance was 72,992, just under the 76,881 for Riley's first spring game in Lincoln last year.
FUNNIEST PENALTY: In the second half, the referee announced ''false start on everybody except the center.''