The Weekly Rundown: Putting a wrap on spring football
We put a wrap on spring football and more as we start your Monday off with the Weekly Rundown Column.
You have to feel pretty good about these things right now:
OLB Garrett Nelson: There weren't very many takeaways you could have from watching Saturday's Red-White spring game, but one of them was the play of outside linebacker Garrett Nelson.
He pretty much did whatever he wanted on pass rush situations against NU's tackles. He looks faster and he's added some good weight to his body.
TCU Portal target Ochaun Mathis: Yep, this guy sure passed the eye test. I'm not sure I've seen Nebraska put as much of a full-court press effort as they did with TCU pass rusher Ochaun Mathis this weekend.
They did everything right, from bringing all of his key family figures to Lincoln, along with spending valuable one-on-one time with him during his entire visit. During pre-game warm-ups, he spent time talking to former Husker All-American defensive lineman Jason Peter, NU Athletic Director Trev Alberts among others.
RB Anthony Grant: Junior college transfer running back Anthony Grant just has something about him. He's got an extra set of gears in his game, and we saw that on display Saturday.
It finally feels like the Huskers got one right after missing on JUCO backs Greg Bell and Dedrick Mills to a large extent considering what the expectation level was when they came to Nebraska.
Grant is also very hungry to get this opportunity after spending time in both Kansas and New Mexico playing junior college football.
Nebraska's commitment to the student-athlete: On Saturday the Nebraska Athletic Department announced that every scholarship student-athlete will be eligible to receive an extra $6,000 per year for academic performance.
To simplify what that means, NU is taking over $3 million out of their own pockets to essentially take scholarship stipend checks from about $1,3000 to now $1,800 a month if you show academic progress and stay on track to graduate. That's quite a deal, considering it wasn't too long ago scholarship athletes made just $800 a month before the cost of attendance stipend was added.
On top of that, Nebraska's NIL Collective ABM announced on Friday they have paid out $850,000 already on 450 NIL deals, and now have $3.5 million committed/raised for future NIL deals. And keep in mind, this is just one stream of NIL. It doesn't include OpenDorse deals or any other opportunity athletes get outside of ABM.
Husker football in Dublin: Anyone that has doubts about Nebraska playing in Ireland, Trev Alberts squashed those on Saturday. Alberts was asked, "when he felt comfortable moving forward with the game in Ireland?"
"We have a signed contract in place to play this game in Ireland," Alberts said without flinching. He added that they are looking forward to this trip and they know how big of a game it is for a lot of obvious reasons.
NU has a team of officials heading out to Dublin this month to check things out, and Frost is tentatively scheduled to make a promotional trip to Dublin in May.
These were my surprises of the week:
QB Chubba Purdy: Florida State QB transfer Chubba Purdy only has practiced for about one week this spring, but he sure had a few impressive moments on Saturday.
Purdy not only has arm talent but speed as well. You could see Frost's wheels spinning as he watched Purdy on Saturday.
TE AJ Rollins: Of all the true freshmen on the roster this year, you could argue tight end A.J. Rollins was the most improved player.
In high school, Rollins at times looked like a basketball player told to play football. He would show flashes, but it just wasn't consistently at a high level.
This spring, Rollins looked like a football player. He's got good hands and he's made some great gains in the weight room.
Spring game visitor list: We all knew Nebraska was going to have some quality visitors at the spring game, but let's not kid ourselves, that was the best recruiting weekend NU has had by far since the COVID pandemic hit.
In some ways, I think having the spring game on Apr. 9 helped the Huskers, as they were the only major school in the region that played this past Saturday. I also think NIL played an impact, as several of these prospects were aware of the potential opportunities in Lincoln.
The jury is still out
Questions still surround these things:
Nebraska's offensive line: We saw Casey Thompson and the top offense for nine plays on Saturday, and the little we did see, the offensive line had some issues in pass protection.
The Husker offensive line is far from the finished product at this point.
QB Logan Smothers: What does the future hold for Logan Smothers after this spring? What are his thoughts moving into the summer?
RB Markese Stepp: The former USC transfer just can't seem to stay healthy. On Saturday, Markese Stepp injured himself after one play and was seen slamming his helmet in frustration on the sideline.
You feel for Stepp because nothing has seemed to go right for the Indianapolis native. He missed last spring with an injury and from there things have never been able to take off.
This has my attention
Moving forward, this has my attention:
Mark Whipple on the sidelines: It appears offensive coordinator Mark Whipple will call plays from the sidelines.
That's how he did it at Pitt and really how he's always done it as a play-caller. Casey Thompson talked to me about that Sunday on Husker Chat Live.
"Based on last year and what he's done in the past, he's always been on the sideline," Thompson said of Whipple. "He calls plays right from the field. He's made comments if 'you ever need anything, just look over or walk over to me and I will tell you the play.' I assume he'll be on the sideline.
"(Saturday) he was down on the sideline, and that was good, that way you can communicate with him face to face. He said it's important to him with the quarterbacks he's coached. He wants to see body language and he wants to see how guys are responding to how things are happening on the field."
2024 QB Dylan Raiola: Think about this, 2024 QB Dylan Raiola has played just one year of varsity football and he's already one of the most coveted recruits in the country.
When you think about NIL deals and collectives, a guy like Raiola is going to get so big these next two years things like that won't even matter. He's going to have shoe companies approaching him more than likely, along with other big national opportunities.
Raiola made his third visit to Lincoln since June on Saturday, and all you could see was a smile on his face the entire time. What impact will the Raiola family's love for Nebraska play in this process remains the million-dollar question?
Nebraska's Media Rights deal: Alberts told me on Saturday the bottom line was he and his people just didn't feel comfortable with the long-term JMI Sports deal they were close to signing this month. It wasn't the best deal for Nebraska and Alberts said he's not going to sign something like that.
So what's next? More than likely NU will keep things in-house another year as there just doesn't appear to be enough time to put together a deal of this magnitude for the 2022-23 sports year.
Player exit meetings: When spring ball ends, the next thing will be player exit meetings. When will those meetings begin to take place, and how soon might we see some names hit the transfer portal from the current roster?
Sean Callahan can be reached at email@example.com 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 Nebraska Public Media's Big Red Wrap Tuesdays at 7 pm.