Going into the spring, many fans wanted to see how redshirt freshman Johnny Stanton would compete with sophomore Tommy Armstrong at quarterback. The big news from the opening day of camp is that it's now a three-way battle, as senior Jamal Turner took snaps at quarterback.
Josh Harvey (@JoshHarveyScout) March 8, 2014
Safe to say most fans didn't see this coming. Does this say more about Nebraska's depth at quarterback or wide receiver? I suspect more of the former. While Armstrong received praise from his teammates for his leadership last season, his statistics were not overwhelming. A 52% completion percentage, 124.3 pass efficiency rating, and 3.0 yards per carry average on the ground weren't terribly impressive, so it's not surprising that Nebraska is looking at all options. Turner arrived in Lincoln as a quarterback, and moved to receiver when it was clear that he wasn't going to be able to unseat Taylor Martinez.
So why move him back now? My first thought is that Nebraska may be looking at ways to utilize Turner as part-time quarterback in a Wildcat formation ... or maybe in a role like Northwestern's Kain Colter. That seems to be the opinion of others in the Nebraska media as well:
Pelini says with wildcat and other scenarios, they wanted to see Turner work at QB. Turner has worked sparingly in previous springs at QB— Chris Whitney (@CWhitneyKLIN) March 8, 2014
I think Nebraska's depth at receiver is deep enough to work without Turner, at least on a part-time basis. Even if he were to become the starter at quarterback, I still suspect he'll split out wide occasionally as a slash player. So how did he do?
Turner also played some receiver on Saturday, but he took several live scrimmage QB snap as well and spent most of his time there.— Sean Callahan (@Sean_Callahan) March 8, 2014
Well, how did Turner look? "I thought he handled some blitzes well ... He was actually further ahead than I thought he would be," Bo said.— Steven M. Sipple (@HuskerExtraSip) March 8, 2014
Let's not overreact, as fans are inclined to do. It's springtime, and the time is right to experiment. Speaking of experiments, some interesting work with a two back offense:
My favorite new wrinkle with the offense was seeing several formations with two RB's on the field at once. Abdullah/Cross Taylor/Newby— Sean Callahan (@Sean_Callahan) March 8, 2014
We've seen the diamond formation with three backs used occasionally as a change of pace. But a two back offense might be a way to ensure that everybody gets their carries in a crowded backfield.
Harvey Jackson, Tobi Okuyemi and Jay Guy no longer listed on the #Husker roster.— Brian Christopherson (@HuskerExtraBC) March 8, 2014
Jackson is a bit of a surprise, as he's been a spot starter in the past. Guy and Okuyemi have never been able to get on the field despite past depth issues, and now with all of the young talent up front, their chances of contributing in their final season are even less. Junior defensive tackle Kevin Williams did participate in workouts today; he's recovering from another ACL injury suffered last fall.
Safety Corey Cooper didn't participate in this practice because of a turf toe injury. It's easy to extrapolate this to cover the entire spring; his starting spot should be secure.
Corey Cooper is out right now with a turf toe injury. Nothing serious. "I'm not going to push Coop at this time of year," Bo said. #Huskers— Brian Christopherson (@HuskerExtraBC) March 8, 2014
#Huskers senior safety Corey Cooper missed first day of spring drills with turf toe, Pelini said. Injured it last week.— Steven M. Sipple (@HuskerExtraSip) March 8, 2014
Nate Gerry took a lot of snaps with the top defense in place of Cooper; that's valuable experience for the sophomore, who started the season at linebacker, but saw his playing time reduced as the season moved on.
Josh Banderas took a lot of snaps at the Buck linebacker spot; he's put on weight to 235 pounds. At the nickel back spot, it looks like juniors Charles Jackson and Byerson Cockrell will be the leading candidates initially.
And for those people who are worried about the offseason conditioning, it doesn't sound like junior defensive end Randy Gregory is ballooning up just yet.
Pelini says Randy Gregory continues to bulk up and add weight. In upper 230's now, hoping to have him up to 245-250 by the fall #Huskers— Chris Whitney (@CWhitneyKLIN) March 8, 2014
I suspect that Nebraska (and the NFL) want Gregory bigger. I don't think 245-250 is excessive for a defensive end; might actually be a touch light.
Want an offensive line depth chart? OK.
OLine is big. Sterup, Price, Pelini, Cotton, Knevel worked a lot with 1's today. Newcomer Alex Lewis a lot with 2's, he looks the part— Chris Whitney (@CWhitneyKLIN) March 8, 2014
Jake Cotton got some rave reviews for his workouts this offseason.
@HuskerExtraSip the defensive lineman definitely look the part physically but he stood out on how his body has transformed.— Gary Sharp (@GarySharp1620) March 8, 2014
So there you have it. Again, it's just the first practice of the spring. Next is on Monday afternoon.