football Edit

Five things to watch at Nebraska's open spring practice on Saturday

Here are five things to watch at Nebraska's open spring practice on Saturday.

Freshman quarterback Heinrich Haarberg
Freshman quarterback Heinrich Haarberg (Sean Callahan)

Logan Smothers vs. Heinrich Haarberg

At this point, we know Adrian Martinez is going to be the starter in 2021 for Nebraska. The biggest question arguably right now with the offense is what will the QB position look like after Martinez?

Today will be the first real glimpse anyone on the outside has gotten of either freshman Logan Smothers or Heinrich Haarberg.

We've heard so much about Haarberg's arm talent and potential. The chatter on Smothers has been pretty quiet to this point. What will the 4,000 in attendance leave Memorial Stadium thinking about hte No. 2 quarterback position?

The better question is will Smothers and Haarberg show enough this spring for the Huskers not to take a potential transfer player at quarterback?

Today that's very debatable, and I lean towards the side they won't take another QB unless it's an absolute home run addition. And how many guys like that want to come to NU and sit behind Martinez?

Will anyone jump out at the running back position? 

The Markese Stepp injury/surgery really threw a wrench into the evaluation of the running back position this spring.

With Stepp out, along with some of the Huskers' other backs battling different bumps and bruises, it's opened the door for several guys to get more opportunities this spring.

The question I have is does Nebraska have an NFL-caliber running back on this roster? From 2004 to 2018 the Huskers produced NFL level backs fairly routinely. Since Devine Ozigbo's departure in 2018, the consistency and production have been nowhere near NFL level.

Can newcomers like Gabe Ervin show enough this spring to reach that level down the road? What about Sevion Morrison, who we didn't get to see last year because of COVID and other injuries?

Transfer WR Samori Toure
Transfer WR Samori Toure

Upgraded talent at wide receiver 

We've heard so much about Nebraska's wide receivers this spring that getting the chance to see them with our own eyes should go a long way.

Nobody has seen Samori Toure or even Omar Manning for that matter. Zavier Betts is poised to make a big year two jump, as is Oliver Martin.

I think this receiver group on Saturday will resemble more the improvement we expected to see with the position in 2020, but that never happened since Manning didn't play, Marcus Fleming transferred and Will Nixon got hurt. We got small tastes of Betts and Alante Brown in 2020, but now this group appears to be poised to be the most improved position group on the team in 2021.

OLB's coach and special teams coordinator Mike Dawson.
OLB's coach and special teams coordinator Mike Dawson. (Sean Callahan)

Special teams approach 

Special teams have been a complete disaster the last few seasons at Nebraska. There's no other way to say it.

What will they look like today? How different will the approach be in practice?

Just to be able to get a feel for the direction of special teams under Mike Dawson will go a long way in seeing the emphasis placed on this phase of the game in 2021.

Sophomore cornerback Quinton Newsome
Sophomore cornerback Quinton Newsome (Tyler Krecklow)

Who jumps out at the open corner position? 

10 of the starting 11 spots on this defense appear to be set in some form or another.

The biggest question is who starts at the cornerback opening DiCaprio Bootle left on the roster?

Quinton Newsome, Braxton Clark and Nadab Joseph are all battling for that spot right now. What will this group look like, and will we be able to figure out who has the leg up at today's open practice?

I also think there's a lot of curiosity to see Joseph play, as everyone knows how highly recruited he was back in high school.