Five storylines to watch for start of Spring football
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Five storylines to watch for start of Spring football

Nebraska has their first practice of Spring camp on Feb. 28 in preparation for a high stakes season as Head Coach Scott Frost enters his fifth season with four new offensive assistant coaches and a full-time special teams coordinator.

The Huskers had a solid off-season as they hired five new coaches, added 10 Division I transfers and three JUCO additions. Can Nebraska keep its momentum into Spring football?

Here are five storylines to watch for the start of Spring football:

Husker Head Coach Scott Frost at Nebraska's open spring practice in 2021
Husker Head Coach Scott Frost at Nebraska's open spring practice in 2021 (Tyler Krecklow)

1. Debut of Nebraska's new offense

Mark Whipple is Nebraska's new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach and will be taking over Frost's previous job of calling the plays. With an almost complete overhaul on offense, outside of tight ends coach Sean Beckton, NU recrafted its offensive with fresh ideas.

The offensive line could see the biggest change in terms of style with coach Donovan Raiola coaching a more powerful, aggressive style. The former coach, Greg Austin, coached zone blocking.

Monday marks the debut of the new playbook and how it translates onto the practice field. While media and fans won't be able to see this debut until the Northwestern game in week zero, the spring is when it will get installed.

The defense is typically further ahead of the offense in the spring but with a new system and coaches, the defense could be a lot further ahead.

2. Quarterback battle

It seems that most eyes will be on the quarterback battle during the spring.

Nebraska added two transfer portal quarterbacks during the offseason in Texas transfer Casey Thompson and Florida State transfer Chubba Purdy.

Sophomore Logan Smothers, the Huskers back up in 2021, and redshirt freshman Heinrich Haarberg return from last season. Freshman Richard Torres is out for the spring with an ACL injury he suffered during his senior season of high school.

Heading into spring, Thompson has a step in front due to his proven ability to lead a Power Five program. However, Smothers and Purdy won't go quietly and will battle for the starting position.

Whipple will have his hands full with implementing a new offense in a new program and teaching his techniques to a room full of eager QBs battling for the starting and backup roles.

WRs coach Mickey Joseph.
WRs coach Mickey Joseph. (Sean Callahan)

3. New coaches flavor in practice

Nebraska's new offensive coaches brought fresh ideas to the playbook, just as Frost wanted, but will bring new energy, techniques and expectations to practice.

This is the first time these coaches will work hands-on with their new players and get to know them on the field and vice versa.

Frost and co. could change up the structure of practice with new perspectives but also because they have a full-time special teams coordinator in Bill Busch, who was promoted from the Huskers special teams analyst during the 2021 season.

Nebraska switched to begin practice with special teams during last off-season. Outside linebackers coach Mike Dawson, who is now the defensive front coach, was the special teams coordinator in 2021 but other assistant coaches had certain focuses.

Now, with Busch solely focused on special teams, there could be a change in how Nebraska runs special teams time-wise but also practice-wise.

4. How to approach key holes on defense

Nebraska lost three key defensive linemen in 2021 and didn't add a transfer to replace the experience during the off-season. Ty Robinson and Casey Rogers are the only returning linemen with playing experience. However, Rogers is out for the spring with a knee injury he suffered on Nebraska's last play against Iowa in the season finale.

The Huskers have several offers out to defensive ends that would arrive on campus during the summer. But how will Dawson fill the gaping holes in the defensive line room until they get reinforcements?

NU's outside linebackers could be used to cover up the holes as they rush the pass in a 3-4 defense. Garrett Nelson, Caleb Tannor and Blaise Gunnerson headline the outside linebacker core with Pheldarius Payne hitting the transfer portal on the Friday before spring practice.

In the secondary, Nebraska also lost three starters but brought in four transfers and three freshmen to fill the holes. Five of these players are on campus for spring ball.

Quinton Newsome, who started last season at cornerback, seems to be the only near lock in the backfield. Cornerback transfers Tommi Hill, Javier Morton and safety DeShon Singleton could jump to the front of the pack during spring.

5. Trenches not determined in spring

A lot is up in the air with Nebraska's offensive and defensive lines and the trenches won't be decided during spring. The defensive line will ideally add more bodies and return Rogers back from his injury.

As for the offensive line, tackles Turner Corcoran and Teddy Prochazka are both out for the spring and will likely be key pieces to Nebraska's offense come fall. NU added Oklahoma State transfer Hunter Anthony and Northern Colorado transfer Kevin Williams Jr. to add depth.

The offensive line was one of the Huskers' greatest weaknesses in 2021. Raiola has a big job in front of him as he reshapes the line that has two returning starters available in spring, one of which was benched last season.

This spring will set the foundation of the trenches. However, the battle for starters could go well into fall camp with new additions in terms of the transfer portal, freshmen and linemen returning from injury.