There has been a resounding lack of good news surrounding the Nebraska football program in 2015, but Husker fans got a little encouragement Tuesday, when head coach Mike Riley announced that he expected quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. to be back in the starting lineup for Saturday’s game against #6 Michigan State.

Armstrong missed last weekend's 55-45 loss at Purdue with a foot injury. Backup Ryker Fyfe struggled in relief, throwing four interceptions against the Boilermakers.

The injury news is not all good for Nebraska.

Wide receiver/returner De’Mornay Pierson-El is out for the year with torn knee ligaments and a leg fracture, while running back Terrell Newby (ankle) and receiver Brandon Reilly (toe) are questionable for Saturday’s game against the Spartans. Kickoff is at 7:00 PM in Lincoln.

You can follow the Cornhuskers all season, live on ESPN 99.1.

(Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, the 3-6 start for the Big Red prompted Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst to pen an open letter to Cornhusker fans this week. In the letter, the AD thanks fans for their continued support of the program, while at the same time expressing his understanding of the disappointment surrounding the slow start for first-year head coach Mike Riley's team.

Eichorst encouraged fans to be patient, assuring them that Riley and his staff have a plan to deliver:

...a sustained winner which will compete annually for championships.

There is one line in the letter, however, that is rubbing a lot of Cornhusker fans the wrong way:

Your support and patience as Mike Riley rebuilds our storied program one brick at a time mean the world to our young men, our staff and our university.

Big Red fans are quick to point out that seven consecutive years of nine or ten wins under recently fired head coach Bo Pelini hardly puts the program in the 'rebuilding' category.

But I believe Eichorst's use of the word 'rebuilding' has as much to do with the culture surrounding the program, as much as wins and losses. Eichorst was not a fan of Pelini's repeated sideline meltdowns, testy encounters with the media, and rants against the Nebraska fan base.

The hire of Riley from Oregon State late last year, a coach with a career record barely above .500, was very telling in two ways:

  1. Nebraska was no longer considered one of the 'elite' jobs in college football, and couldn't attract any of the sport's top coaches to come to Lincoln.
  2. Eichorst wanted to put a kindler, gentler face on the Husker football program, and Riley fit like a glove.

Riley is certainly a nice guy and Eichorst means well, but whether those translate into better results on the field moving forward is anyone's guess.

One thing that is true - if things don't improve quickly in Lincoln - all of the smiles and nicely worded letters won't save Eichorst's and Riley's jobs from being the next phase of 'rebuilding' at Nebraska.