Generally speaking, the Nebraska Cornhuskers Spring Game - colloquially referred to as the Red-White game - is more spectacle than actual useful gauge on the team’s talent level. For many kids, it’s the first chance to go in front of a sold-out Memorial Stadium and make a big play, and for more established players, it’s fun to go hit someone in a non-drill format.
This year is actually sort of weird for most Husker fans in that, (a) we know who the quarterback is, and (b) we know the coach is not on the hot seat. That sounds like a really low bar - or what most teams go into Spring thinking - but we haven’t had kind of a low-key Spring game in a while. Since most defensive and offensive formations are vanilla anyways, we won’t even get to see a lot of ‘up and coming players’.
So what ARE the storylines?
Wide Receiver: J.D. Spielman and newcomer Wan’Dale Robinson are out with lingering injuries. The former is the absolutely known player who is probably Big Ten first team if he stays healthy this year. The latter? The most exciting recruit and early enrollee who many are comparing to Purdue’s own Rondale Moore. Maybe it’s because they’re similar in size, speed, and position? Maybe it’s because they’re both from Kentucky? Maybe it’s because they’re both that good. Unfortunately fans won’t see either. Look for someone - anyone - to step up. Andre Hunt, Mike Williams, Jaron Woodyard, and newcomer Jamie Nance all look to make some noise.
Running Back: Namely, who is going to step up? Reinforcements to depth - and probably snaps - come in the Summer, but for now you’re looking at walk-on Brody Belt, oft-forgotten Jaylin Bradley, coming-back-from-injury Miles Jones, and fan-favorite Wyatt Mazour. While Nebraska awaits to make a decision on Maurice Washington pending already documented legal problems, this position is pretty thin. As noted, Rahmir Johnson and Dedrick Mills - both slated to push for the starting role in the Fall - aren’t on campus yet.
Backup QB: Sure, why not. Newcomer Luke McCaffrey looks great according to coaches and wants to push for some snaps this year - ideally taking advantage of the four game rule - but he might be good enough to be the actual backup to Adrian Martinez. Andrew Bunch flirted with the transfer portal but is fighting for the backup role with former UCF QB Noah Vedral (a native Nebraskan). They’re going to get quite a few plays to show off their talents so that’s fun I guess.
Defense: Okay, so defense in these things is damn near impossible to track in Spring games, but Oklahoma State transfer Darrion Daniels is a fun story. He’s here to play with his brother, Damion Daniels, and looks like an anchor at NT. Fun fact, two sets of brothers in that room between the Daniels and Carlos Davis and Khalil Davis (more on this in a minute) You won’t hear a lot about that during Nebraska games or anything. CB is Lamar Jackson and DiCaprio Bootle until proven otherwise. I guess it’ll be interesting to see Cam Taylor look like the best athlete on the team back there. LB is thin due to injuries, but LB is thin anyways.
“The Brotherhood”: If anyone follows a college football team long enough, they are bombarded with this phrase. In order to compete for the division, both sides of the ball must improve. But to beat Wisconsin, Nebraska needs to be so much better in the defensive trenches. This year it is completely possible for Nebraska to start two sets of actual brothers on the defensive line - twins Khalil and Carlos Davis on the outside, and Damon and Darrion (Sr transfer from Okie Lite) Daniels on the inside. The early reviews have been very positive, but this is Spring Football, and everyone’s bench press is above average. The family dynamic has worked for the Blackshirts before (Jason and Christian Peter), maybe it could work again - this time with fewer crimes.
Scott Frost and the ‘croots: He will not be walking into Memorial Stadium holding a cat, nor will he be the ‘aw shucks’ guy. Frost wants to win more than anybody out there and I expect him to be pushing his players to do the same. As an added bonus, there are a million recruits at the game - including some for basketball - so I think everybody is going to have a little bit more pep in their step. It’s a glorified practice, but it’s our sold out, stupidly blown out of proportion spring game, so back off.
The Nebraska Spring Game is at 1:00 PM Central time, Saturday April 13th. If you’re the type who likes to watch these sorts of things, BTN will be carrying the game live.