football Edit

Nebraska spring football: Heading into Week 5

Here are some things that have stood out as Nebraska heads into its fifth and final week of spring practice.

Sure bets 

These are guys this spring that are who we thought they were:

DB Cam Taylor-Britt - If you were drafting the most valuable players on this football team, based on that, Cam Taylor-Britt would either be No. 1 or No. 2. He's been outstanding in all aspects. Will we see him even play some offense? They joke about him throwing the football.

QB Adrian Martinez - This has been the exact kind of spring you would expect out of a player entering his fourth season as the starter. Business as usual.

TE's Austin Allen & Travis Vokolek - On paper, this is as good of a 1-2 punch at tight end Nebraska has had in a number of years.

Safeties Deontai Williams & Marquel Dismuke - It's quite a luxury for Travis Fisher to have two sixth years seniors leading the back end of this defense. Williams and Dismuke are wise and mature beyond their years. They've been through a lot, and they've learned from it.

Freshman QB Heinrich Haarberg
Freshman QB Heinrich Haarberg (Tyler Kreckow)

Surprise players 

These are players that have surprised this spring:

QB Heinrich Haarberg - Remember when people were questioning Nebraska taking Haarberg over Cole Payton back in November? You don't hear much of that talk anymore. The Kearney Catholic product has gotten the attention of everyone this spring.

RB Jaquez Yant - This may be the biggest surprise this spring. Nobody could've predicted a walk-on running back would be in the mix, but give Yant credit. He's worked hard and it's paid off. There's a good chance he'll get the attention of Husker fans on Saturday too.

OL Matt Sichterman - We've become so accustomed to counting guys out that don't play after about two years at NU. Give Matt Sichterman a ton of credit. He easily could've left the program, but he stuck it out and has put himself in a position to start at right guard heading into his fifth season at Nebraska. It's also a testament to the culture Greg Austin has built in the line room.

WR Oliver Martin - Nobody could've predicted Oliver Martin would run a double laser 40-time of 4.41 seconds and jump a 40-inch vertical. In fact, when he walked on to NU from Iowa in August, Nebraska nor Martin would even confirm the addition to the roster. The way I found out was he was in the UNL student directory. It's pretty amazing a guy that slid into the back door this past August as a walk-on has put up those types of numbers and now is poised to be a starter at wide receiver.

DL Colton Feist - A really good walk-on story on the defense is Colton Feist. He may not see a ton of snaps this year, but he's put himself in the conversation. If he stays healthy, he'll be a scholarship guy when it's all said and done. He was the best player on Yutan's 2017 state championship team, and he's developed nicely in the strength program.

Nebraska still has a lot of questions to answer in their backfield.
Nebraska still has a lot of questions to answer in their backfield. (Tyler Krecklow)

The jury is still out

Questions still surround these players/position groups:

QB Logan Smothers - I know it's early and the sample size is limited, but at this point, we have no idea if Logan Smothers is the guy we thought he was coming out of high school.

All of the running backs - I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing we are talking about Yant in the running back race. I thought this spring we'd learn a lot about the young scholarship running backs in the program, but injuries and other things have played a factor. I do think freshman Gave Ervin has put together a nice spring. I worry about the durability of Stepp long-term as well.

WR Omar Manning - He put on a heck of a show in the open practice. It really made you wonder "what if" this last season if they had Manning's presence on the field. The question now is can he put it all together every day. If he can, watch out.

CB Nadab Joseph - At this point, it appears Joseph is behind both Quinton Newsome and Braxton Clark. Can he carve out a role this year beyond special teams?

This has my attention 

Moving forward, this has my attention:

The QB situation after Martinez - Can Smothers or Haarberg win games in this offense? If not, can you find somebody in the portal worth taking? This is a very tough decision for Frost over the month of May.

The battle at right guard - Right now it appears Sichterman and third-year freshman Brant Banks are the two guys to beat at right guard. That could change, as Austin has always tried to get his best five linemen on the field, which might mean moving some guys around.

Markese Stepp's long-term health - Stepp has had injury issues dating back to his junior year of high school all the way through his time at USC. You just hope this is not going to be something that keeps him off the field at Nebraska.

TE Thomas Fidone - Rumors have emerged about the health of freshman tight end Thomas Fidone following Friday's practice. We don't talk to an NU coach or player again until Wednesday. What will we learn about Fidone on Wednesday?

OLB Pheldarius Payne - Could Payne be the long-lost edge pass rusher Nebraska hasn't had since 2014? He's put together a nice spring.

WR Samori Toure - I predict right now Toure will lead Nebraska in receiving yards in 2021 if he stays healthy. He's been exactly what they were expecting.

Punter Daniel Cerni - We know this: Cerni has a very strong leg and can punt it a mile if he gets ahold of it. What we also know though is he's never played American football. It will be interesting to see how he transitions and what his leg looks like in person at the spring game.