Hopefully passes like this are a thing of the past. Taylor Martinez's fundamentals is one of the things I want to see improvement on in the 2012 Nebraska spring game. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
While spring games technically are a football game, it's really a scrimmage. Nobody really cares who wins, except maybe the players who are playing for pride. Why do Husker fans bother? For some of us, it marks the midway point of a long offseason. If the weather is good, it's a fine day to tailgate and get together with friends like you might do in the fall. For families, it's a chance to introduce the kids to Nebraska football at a reasonable price. Cheap tickets, and if the kids distract you during the game, who cares...you didn't miss a real game. Plus at halftime, they get to go down on the field and run around. Go ahead and take that picture of your son in the end zone.
And of course, it's a chance to see young players who haven't had a chance to take the field in a real game...plus a chance to see how individual players have developed during the offseason. The playbook is simplified, so you aren't going to get a read on what the offense would be like. But you can try to compare individual players and see if anybody catches your eye. Sometimes it's a Kyler Reed, who lived up to being "THAT GUY" in the 2009 game. Sometimes, though, it's Antonio Bell, who starred in the spring game on offense, only to be buried on the depth chart then move to cornerback. And sometimes it's Jamal Turner, who bought into too much of the hype from last year's spring game.
So who are the guys I'll be trying to keep an eye on?Taylor Martinez will only play about a quarter, so while he's in, I want to see if his fundamentals look better. After that, I'm intrigued by Bronson Marsh, though I don't really expect him to be much of a factor at quarterback. Rex Burkhead probably won't play much either, so I'm hoping I get to see a lot of Ameer Abdullah and Aaron Green at I-back. And, of course, Mike Marrow at fullback.
At receiver, Jamal Turner has been nursing hamstring injuries this spring, so I don't expect to see much from him. I don't need to see much from Kenny Bell or Quincy Enunwa. But I have heard some buzz about redshirt freshman Taariq Allen (#7) and sophomore Tyler Wullenwaber (#26). Supposedly Wullenwaber is one of the fastest guys on the team; we'll see about that.
I'm not sure I'm going to focus too much on the lines, partially because it's going to be a vanilla scrimmage and also the defensive line is so banged up. Four defensive tackles (Chase Rome, Todd Peat, Kevin Williams and Thaddeus Randle) are out, so I'm not sure what, if anything we'll learn that's really relevant. Unless, of course, what's left of the d-line eats the offensive line's lunch all afternoon.
At linebacker, I'm most intrigued by senior Sean Fisher. He was still hampered by his leg injury last season, but had the rest of the plates and screws removed from his ankle during the offseason. Pelini says it's like night and day for Fisher, so I want to see it firsthand. And, of course, who's going to fill Lavonte David's shoes: is it going to be David Santos or Alonzo Whaley? Whaley apparently has the lead at this point.
The secondary is going to be my primary focus after looking at Martinez's fundamentals in the first quarter. Everybody wants to see juco transfer Mohamme Seisay at cornerback; can he fill Alfonzo Dennard's role this fall? Nebraska also needs to solidify the other corner position. How will Braylon Heard look back there? What about Stanley Jean-Baptiste? Is it going to be Andrew Green back there again by default?
At safety, Daimion Stafford sounds like he's really rounded into form. Who'll play opposite from him? P.J. Smith or Courtney Osborne? Or maybe sophomore Harvey Jackson, who impressed me last spring. Defensive coordinator John Papuchis has talked up safety Corey Cooper, nickel back Ciante Evans, and cornerback Antonio Bell as well. Really, I'm just looking for people to step up and make their presence known. Will Terry Joseph be able to turn the secondary from being a liability last season to an asset?
And for me personally, it'll be another opportunity to get the kids to Lincoln to watch the Huskers. The kids will get a chance to run around on the FieldTurf at halftime, and we'll get the obligatory snapshots. Especially my son, who'll be rocking his new Stafford/Martinez #3 jersey, I'm sure. Look for us if you come to the game.
We'll be the ones wearing red.