At 2 o’clock eastern time on a Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium, the Nebraska Cornhuskers will participate in their annual Red-White spring game.
Months after a disappointing finish to the 2011 season with a 30-13 loss to South Carolina, Nebraska will finally resume play before an expected large crowd Saturday.
Although this is only a spring game (more a scrimmage than an actual contest), it is a culmination of all the work the team has put into this spring season.
Coach Bo Pelini believes his team has made a great deal of progress over the previous month and expects his players to put on a good show out there Saturday.
The most intriguing storyline of the day will easily be that of quarterback Taylor Martinez. The junior has been much scrutinized the past two years for his poor footwork and inaccuracy in the passing department.
Martinez has been working hard this spring though, even giving up part of his spring break to work with QB coach Steve Calhoun on his game. The team’s expected starter this fall, will, in all likelihood, see little more than a quarter’s worth of action Saturday. But in that time frame, fans will get a first glimpse at just how effective this work has been.
The rest of the offense will be something to look out for as well. Rex Burkhead will be expected to play very little, but will give up that time to sophomores Aaron Green and Ameer Abdullah. This is a duo that would be great to see step up in order to pick up the slack when the workhorse Burkhead needs a rest.
Along with this, receivers will be important. Although Nebraska is in a good spot in this department, the spring game could display the emerging talents of redshirt freshman Taariq Allen and sophomore Tyler Wullenwaber. (And showcasing a new found ability to not drop passes would prove fruitful as well.)
The offensive line may not be as important to watch. The young unit is still gelling together, but with a number of defensive linemen out for spring football, the big men up front shouldn’t get a true test Saturday.
Since the d-line will be so depleted, there will be little to witness there. In the back seven of the defense though, there will some key things to check out.
It starts in the linebacking corps. The Cornhuskers lost a stud when Lavonte David graduated and still lack a great deal of linebackers that is necessary in the more ground-oriented Big Ten (can’t fault Nebraska too much here though, since they have only recently joined the conference and needed to recruit fewer linebackers when in the Big 12).
Pelini has said that Alonzo Whaley has had a great spring at the Will linebacker spot formerly held by David. With this context, Whaley’s contributions will be something to watch very closely as Nebraska hopes these second-level defenders can improve this season.
Finally, fans will get to see the interesting situation that is the Nebraska secondary. The defensive unit lost star Alonzo Dennard and wasn ‘t even that great with him.
Can the Cornhuskers fix their woes in the secondary this season?
Nobody knows now, but a strong showing by the defensive backs, especially from junior Andrew Green and JUCO transfer Mohammed Seisay, could give a lot of confidence to a unit that was battered at times last season.
Pelini expects his secondary to step up and be a part of a group defensive effort that will imrpove dramatically on last year’s performance.
Again, it’s still just a spring game, but with all of these factors to watch for, it will mean a great deal to the Husker faithful.
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