Final take: Don't overanalyze the 2021 Red-White game
Here are some final takes and thoughts following the 2021 Nebraska Red-White spring game.
As the Husker football team walked off the field for the final time in 2020 in an empty SHI Stadium at Rutgers, there were only four people outside of the NU traveling party that made the trip from Nebraska.
Only family members were allowed at NU home games in Lincoln, while four out of five road games in 2020 also allowed Nebraska parents to attend.
Everything about 2020 was hard to wrap your arms around. Seeing 36,406 in attendance at the Red-White spring game on Saturday was a step in the right direction.
It was by far the largest gathering the state of Nebraska has seen since the COVID-19 pandemic began. It was also the third-largest gathering in the country since the pandemic, topped only by Alabama's spring game (47,218) and the Texas Rangers (38,283) home opener back in April.
So let's forget about what happened on the field because that really wasn't the story on Saturday. The story was seeing a fan base, city and state take a step closer to getting back to normalcy.
“I don’t know who needed that the most,” NU head coach Scott Frost said. “Us to have the fans in there cheering for us, or the city of Lincoln? It’s been too long. The stadium wasn’t full, but man there were a lot of people in there. The sooner we get back to normal, the better for everybody. Man, that was a good first step in the right direction.”
Sometimes I think you don't know what you lost until it's gone.
Everything about 2020 happened so abruptly that it was hard to grasp.
Think about last year for example. There was no spring game. Instead, we watched a computer-generated virtual scrimmage featuring former Husker legends.
“It’s crazy just seeing people back in the stands," junior cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt said. "Walking out on the Tunnel Walk, you didn’t see anybody other than the little camera crews (this season). It wasn’t exciting. The fans' energy is something else, and we needed that, and you felt it when you walked into the stadium today.”
But as quarterback Adrian Martinez said, he wouldn't expect anything else.
“It was a great atmosphere,” Martinez said. “I expected it. I know our fans are passionate, I know people wanted to get back out here and watch some football. It was good.”
Now on to the breakdown...
What I saw on Saturday
***At least right now, it appears Matt Sichterman has the leg up to win the right guard job coming out of the spring. He got the start on Saturday.
***From what I see and hear, freshman running back Gabe Ervin might be the odds-on favorite at this point to win the starting running back job. Markese Stepp remains a wildcard. Marvin Scott got the start Saturday, but Ervin in my opinion is the most complete back. Walk-on Jacqauez Yant remains one of the most intriguing players on the team. I believe he's got a good chance to find a role in 2021.
***The first half on Saturday felt more like "these are our starters, but we don't want to get them hurt." We obviously saw NU's top units, but with no live tackling, it was very difficult to draw too many conclusions.
***Wide receiver Samori Toure looks the part. He runs great routes and has an excellent feel for the game.
***Omar Manning is going to help this football team in 2021. They need him to be a player.
***It was good to see Blaise Gunnerson flash on Saturday. He beat Turner Corcoran to get a sack on Martinez.
***It was a rough day in the trick play category for Nebraska.
***Martinez looked quicker and threw the ball with great poise on Saturday.
***It was a nice comeback spring for freshman wide receiver Will Nixon. After suffering a knee injury, he's returned strong.
***This staff really made an effort to get Heinrich Haarberg some live reps on Saturday. There was a point that he got five series in a row before we saw Logan Smothers go back into the game.
Haarberg showed great arm talent but is extremely raw. As for Smothers, we finally got to see him run a little bit, but there are still questions about his ability to throw the football and his overall arm strength.
***My read on the punter battle is it's far from over. Daniel Cerni showed his leg off on his 61-yard punt, but you get the sense the staff wants to see more consistency from him.
Sean Callahan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and he can be heard each day at 6:45 am and 5:05 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha during the football season. He can also be seen on KETV Channel 7 in Omaha during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap-Tuesday's at 7 pm.