April 10, 2011

Four questions left to answer heading into Week 4

The Nebraska football team officially wrapped up its 11th of 15 spring practices on Saturday, and the Huskers will take the field for their fourth and final week of spring ball on Monday.

As NU heads down the home stretch of the spring, here are four questions that still need to be answered before the Red-White game on Saturday, April 16.

Which receivers will truly emerge?

It seems as if every week this spring there have been one or two new young wide receivers to get showered with praise from coaches and teammates on both sides of the ball. But when it comes down to performing in a live game situation, which of those wide outs will answer the call when the pressure is on?

At this point, the two most talked about receivers this spring have been redshirt freshman Kenny Bell and true freshman Jamal Turner. It seems like every player on the roster has raved about Bell's speed since the first day of spring ball, and Turner has continued to turn heads and raise eyebrows since moving over from quarterback last week.

When the Huskers take the field for the Spring Game next week, all eyes will be on those two to see if the hype is real. Also players like Quincy Enunwa, Tim Marlowe and Stanley Jean-Baptiste will all have something to prove after being pretty much overshadowed by Bell and Turner all spring.

How much better is Martinez?

Just from talking with his coaches and teammates, it's easy to believe that sophomore quarterback Taylor Martinez has turned a corner in his development and maturity this offseason, and that he's finally ready to step up as a leader of the offense.

While he may very well have become a more vocal and respected leader since his dismal end to last season, the other big question is how much he's actually improved as a quarterback? An electrifying runner when healthy, some major holes were exposed in Martinez's game after injuring his ankle against Missouri, and he was never the same player the rest of the year.

It will be interesting to see just how much he's improved as a passer and whether he's developed any more patience and confidence in the pocket to properly progress through his reads and not take huge losses on sacks. Also, everyone will be looking to see how much his injured ankle is actually still bothering him, as he reportedly re-aggravated it earlier in the week.

Who will be the No. 2 linebackers?

Ever since head coach Bo Pelini voiced his concerns over Nebraska's lack of proven depth at linebacker last Saturday, that's been one of the biggest talking points around the Huskers.

This Saturday, Pelini said there has been some progress in developing dependable depth behind Lavonte David, Will Compton and Sean Fisher, but the unit was far from getting to the level it needed to be. At this point, Alonzo Whaley (Mike), Graham Stoddard (Buck) and Mathew May and Jim Ebke (Will) are listed as the top back-ups.

However, don't be surprised if those guys continue to get pushed by the likes of players such as redshirt freshman walk-on Trevor Roach, who has caught some attention with his play so far during spring practice.

How far along is the new offense?

After stressing how much more simplified Nebraska's offense would be under new offensive coordinator Tim Beck, it will be interesting to see just how far along the players are in picking up the new scheme after three full weeks of spring practice.

There will obviously be some bumps in the road in perfect Beck's system, but many fans will be wanting to see some progress when the Huskers take the field for the Spring Game next week. In particular, most will want the new aggressive and fast-paced style to be put on display, as that was one of the top selling points of the offense coming into the spring.

Trying to show off a new offense with just four weeks of practice under their belt against a defense as good as the Blackshirts definitely will be a struggle, but there needs to be at least a few glimpses of what the system could become with more experience down the road.

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