Five storylines to watch in today's Red-White Spring Game
Nebraska will hold its second Red-White Spring Game of the Scott Frost era this afternoon, and there will be plenty of things for fans to watch.
Here are five of the top storylines to know going into the Huskers' annual intra-squad scrimmage...
1. How long with Martinez go?
While putting on a good show for the sold-out Memorial Stadium crowd is important to Frost, making sure his team gets out of spring ball as healthy as possible is the No. 1 goal of all.
There’s not a bigger priority in that regard on the roster than sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez, who will be on a limited snap count for the Spring Game. The question is how long that leash will end up being?
While many only expected Martinez to see a couple of drives at most today, quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco told the Lincoln Journal Star this week that the 2018 Freshman All-American could play at least the entire first half, if not longer.
Will Frost really keep his star field general out there that long? Nebraska’s quarterbacks will all wear green non-contact jerseys in the scrimmage, so as long as the defense doesn’t get too carried away and keeps its hands off of him, there’s a chance fans could get a better look at Martinez than originally thought.
2. Introducing Darrion Daniels
One of the biggest storylines of the spring was the arrival of Oklahoma State graduate transfer Darrion Daniels, who immediately established himself as a leader of NU’s defensive line on and off the field.
Nebraska’s coaches said what impressed them even more than Daniels’ play in practice was how quickly his new teammates gravitated to him as a leader. With a new position coach taking over in Tony Tuioti, it probably can’t be said enough how valuable Daniels’ voice and work ethic meant in setting the tone this spring.
But his impact went well beyond just being a rallying force for the defense. The 6-foot-3, 320-pound senior was an absolute force all spring, and most anyone who watched the Huskers practice this spring couldn’t say enough about how much of a difference maker Daniels was at nose guard.
Fans will get their first look today at a newcomer who could be a critical piece to the Blackshirts’ success this season.
3. What will the reps look like at center?
You can’t base everything off how spring game reps are distributed, but they could be a glimpse at where things currently stand at center.
One of the few unsettled position battles going into spring ball, it was primarily a four-man competition for reps at center with Cameron Jurgens, Will Farniok, Hunter Miller, and A.J. Forbes.
All four players are listed on both the Red and White rosters today, meaning it’s unclear as to who will be the starting centers for the respective squads. Whoever goes first for the Red team and snaps for Martinez, though, will be seen as the frontrunner for the No. 1 job heading into fall camp.
There was plenty of praise this spring for Jurgens, but he’s still working on staying healthy and mastering all the details after a major position move from tight end this offseason. Farniok also garnered plenty of positive reports, and he and Jurgens appear to be the frontrunners at this point.
How things shake out today should give a little more clarity to one of the offseason's more important competitions.
4. Time for the receivers to show out
We all know what Nebraska has in J.D. Spielman, but the question all spring has been which other receivers are ready to make the jump and become go-to options in the passing game this season?
Spielman has been limited with an injury most of the spring for precautionary reasons, opening the door even wider for his fellow wideouts to make their moves. Offensive coordinator/receivers coach Troy Walters has named several guys who had shown flashes but said Andre Hunt might have made the biggest move of all.
Walters said the redshirt freshman was maybe the team’s most consistent pass catcher during spring ball and was finally matching his ability with the right level of focus and attention to detail. He could be in for a big game today.
But who else? Mike Williams, Jaron Woodyard, Jamie Nance, and Kade Warner all had their moments. How they perform in the spring game could go a long way in setting the tone going into fall camp.
It should be noted that Jaevon McQuitty is the lone scholarship receiver listed in the White roster, which could be read as a not-so-subtle hint as to where he stands in the wideout pecking order.
5. Spring Game Hero watch
Every year there are a handful of unexpected players who steal the show in the spring game. Who will it be this year?
Some of the obvious candidates are on offense, especially at running back, where only two scholarship players (Jaylin Bradley and Wyatt Mazour) are suiting up for the game. Bradley should get plenty of work on a pared-down White team offense, while Mazour will be the top back for the Red.
Walk-on Brody Belt was one of the surprise stories of the spring with how he maximized his increased opportunities, and he could be in for a big workload as the day rolls on.
As mentioned, all of the receivers have something to prove today, and if Hunt has really made as big of a jump as his coaches say, he could be poised for a breakout game.
How long Martinez plays will determine how much other Red team quarterbacks Noah Vedral and Luke McCaffrey get to shine, while Andrew Bunch will get the reigns of the White squad with only walk-on Matt Masker as his backup.