The playbook was pretty limited, and it was hard most of the day to keep track of who was where, especially since the jerseys didn't have names on the back. But from a pure competitive perspective, it probably was the most competitive finish ever for a Nebraska Spring Game, with the game being decided on the final play of the game.
There were a lot of good things to see, and some things not so good. In that respect, it's tough to do a report card because I usually grade the entire team by position, and we saw some extremes at each position. So focus less on the letter grades and more on the comments. Let's face it; it was a scrimmage. (Cue a quote from Allen Iverson: "We're talking about practice.")
After the jump, I'll have my reaction..and as always, if you were there, add your feedback as well!QB: Nowhere else is the dichotemy of the ratings so extreme. Taylor Martinez wasn't asked to run the ball, and that limited what he could do. His passing was somewhat erratic, with several passes off-target, while others were dropped (doesn't THAT sound familiar?). He did look good on one scramble. Cody Green, on the other hand, seems to be regressing. In the second half, his first two passes probably should have been intercepted. Brion Carnes looked very impressive both running and passing. Ron Kellogg III looked more than serviceable as the fourth string quarterback. If Bubba Starling does attend classes in Lincoln this fall, I wouldn't be surprised if Green changes positions. Next fall, I'd like to see a little more of Carnes. Grade: C+ (Martinez probably would have gotten a C-, and Green would be well south of there...)
RB: Rex Burkhead looked sharp and ready to lead the running back corps this fall. But there was a good deal of production from all the backs on Saturday. Ty Kildow might be a name to keep an eye on next season...but let's be honest, when preseason practice starts in August, Aaron Green, Ameer Abdullah, and Braylon Heard (or so we think) should quickly slide into the second string role. The biggest surprise to me was fullback Tyler Legate getting six carries for 28 yards and two touchdowns. Frankly, I've never understood why fullbacks don't get carries anymore if they are in the game. Bill Callahan once suggested that fullback runs "never set up anything" in his offense. That could be, but considering how "his offense" performed, that's an indictment of Callahan, not the fullback. Bill Walsh certainly knew how to use a fullback in the West Coast Offense. That's just more proof that Bill Callahan is a brilliant offensive line coach who's not qualified to be an offensive coordinator, let alone head coach. Here's hoping that we'll see an occasional fullback run next season. Grade: B
WR: A few drops, but I saw a few promising signs. Kenny Bell showed some impressive shiftiness to get a first down on a screen pass. But the buzz was all about Jamal Turner. Good hands, blazing speed, and moves, moves, moves. If this is a repeat of the Bobby Newcombe situation, bring it on. Newcombe lost his starting quarterback because Eric Crouch was a better quarterback. Newcombe's talent was at receiver. I don't know how good of a quarterback Turner could have been, but it's clear, he's a playmaker at receiver. I'm really excited to see him on the field this fall, making Big Ten defenses look silly. Just one criticism: hopefully, that's the only time he gets flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. I'll forgive him this time because it's a scrimmage and he really should still be in high school...but don't let it happen again. Grade: B+
OL: When Austin Jones and Zach Taylor are racking up the yards, you have to figure the offensive line is doing OK. However, I did see a little penetration in the pass rush. This is likely a work in progress. Grade: B
DL: I think we learned who'll replace Pierre Allen at defensive end for much of next season: Eric Martin. Martin brings to mind Demorrio Williams, another linebacker that Bo Pelini tried to make a defensive end at times a few years back. How Martin gets used next fall is one of those storylines worth following next August and September. And while I was pleased with the pass rush, the yards gained by some of the backs is concerning. Grade: B
LB: This is one of those groups that I lost track of at times. Blame it on trying to watch too many things and trying to keep an eye on two kids.
Secondary: Without having a roster, sometimes it was tough to track just who was doing what out there. But one number that caught my eye was #26, Harvey Jackson, a redshirt freshman from Fresno, Texas. 5 tackles, 2 pass breakups, and an interception. He's another name to keep an eye out for this fall...
Overall: B I don't know if Bo Pelini would agree, but I thought it was an OK performance. The reason why I'm not sure is that typically, the spring game uses a running clock in the second half. Not yesterday, and I speculated that Pelini must have wanted to see more. I'm assuming that's because he wasn't satisfied with the first half performance...but maybe he wanted to see more from the younger players. Hard to say.
With the Spring Game DVD being released for sale this week, I'm struggling with the decision to not televise the spring game, if only on tape delay. I understand wanting fans to come and attend in person, so televising it live probably would affect things. But with so many spring games being televised, there's no reason to not join the trend. Showing it on tape delay would encourage fans to show up; in fact, many who attend in person would probably happily watch it down the line. The coaching staff purposely keeps everything vanilla; after all, if a coach really wanted to get the inside scoop, they'd send a graduate assistant to the game with a handheld video camera and $10 for a ticket.