While Jack Hoffman was the star of the day, there were plenty more (slightly older) youngsters that made their Nebraska debut in the 2013 Spring Game. Many, especially on defense, are going to be counted on this season to make immediate contributions. Others may push older players for playing time and develop depth.
Overall, nobody should have been terribly surprised by the general performance level on the day: offense having the upper hand on the defense, even with the limited playbook. But some players stood out on Saturday, both for good reasons and bad reasons. You may have seen something different; I had the pleasure of bringing my kids. So my concentration was frequently broken by requests for balloons/popcorn/pop, questions about the wave/band/cheerleaders/dance team, and everything else that is important to four and six year olds. In other words, I missed a few things...such as Tommy Armstrong's touchdown pass to Alonzo Moore at the start of the fourth quarter. (Thanks HuskerVision, for not showing a single replay of it, by the way...) So here's my report card, and if you saw something different, tell us in the comments.
QB: Taylor Martinez played two series, as promised...(well, except for one more fourth quarter play), completing 80% of his passes in a low risk situation. The bigger story was Ron Kellogg III, who completed 11 of 12 in an impressive performance. Tommy Armstrong was solid in his debut, completing 5 of 7 passes for 102 yards. He looked good at times running the ball. He showed us some natural option skills that should be exciting down the line. But his two fumbles have to be a red flag for those people who still want Taylor Martinez benched when a turnover occurs. In the second half, the Red defense made Ryker Fyfe and Tyson Broekemeier's afternoon fairly miserable as they ran for their life. Grade: A-
RB: Imani Cross looked a little faster in this scrimmage than last season, though his day was limited to seven carries. King Frazier looks like he could vie for some playing time this fall, even with Terrell Newby and Adam Taylor arriving this summer. Grade: B+
WR: Look, tight ends! Jake Long and Sam Cotton each caught three passes. But the big stories were redshirt freshmen Jordan Westerkamp and Alonzo Moore. Westerkamp showed good hands and great feet, while Alonzo Moore looks like another toy in Tim Beck and Rich Fisher's toybox. The wide receiver situation looks absolutely loaded for next season. Grade: A
OL: When walkon freshman like Graham Nabity are getting to the second level, you have to assume the offensive line was doing their job. And they were for the most part. But run blocking hasn't been the issue as of late up front; it's been pass blocking. And frankly, I don't think the spring game was going to tell us much of anything on that front. Grade: B
DL: Fans wanting to see Vincent Valentine in action had to be disappointed with his absence. Overall, the defensive line looks like it's still a work in progress. If Jason Ankrah has upped his game this spring, he took a step back on Saturday. With Thad Randle and Greg McMullen also on the sidelines, it may not give us an accurate representation of the status of the defensive line. We can only hope so, because improvement on the defensive line is has to be job one for Pelini and his staff. Grade: D
LB: I liked what I saw out of Trevor Roach in terms of effort. Jared Afalava had a couple of nice plays, as did Michael Rose. Thomas Rose had some gaudy statistics, but he seemed to catch my eye more for being out of position than anything. Grade: C+
Secondary: Corey Cooper caught my eye with a forced fumble on Armstrong and a couple of big hits. If I'm going by the spring game, your safeties will be Cooper and Harvey Jackson this fall. Mohammed Seisay flashed a bit of the talent I had hoped to see more of last year. But overall, pass coverage wasn't the strong suit of the day - not when the top three quarterbacks are completing 80% of their passes. Grade: C
Special Teams: Mauro Bondi showed a really strong leg, but the kicks were line drives. (Nice doink of a kickoff off the uprights!) That could be an issue on long field goal tries. Didn't see much in the return game to rave about, other than Zach Sterup's over the shoulder catch during the lineman's punt fielding competition. Maybe he should have been fielding punts at Northwestern last October. Grade: B
Overall: B- No major injuries, so let's call it a successful spring game.
Other Spring Items
Early Spring Game: Considering what the weather has been like as of late, it could have been a disaster. And when the rain started to fall as I left Omaha, I certainly had to wonder if we were due for a bad day. But the clouds blew away, and the weather was spectacular, other than a little breezy. Grade: A
In game contests: I liked them, even if I wasn't quite sure what we were seeing with the "Compete" drill. Zaire Anderson really dominated there. The punt catching follies by the offensive linemen brought a light touch to the day, though Zach Sterup's catch really fired up the White squad. Too bad that more time couldn't be found for the apparent tug-of-war and field goal contests. Grade: A
The Team Jack Run: I think I've watched it two dozen times now. My kids want to watch it over and over. It's going to be a long, long time before it gets old. Such a tremendous thing to do for a very brave young man and his family, and calling attention to a malady that hasn't gotten much publicity up until now. No grade could possibly do this justice: Grade: Infinity