Injuries and depth may force Nebraska to deviate from the traditional Red/White spring game format in 2014, according to Bo Pelini on Saturday. He told reporters that if they split the roster into two teams, that it could be a player safety issue at some positions, as the depth isn't there to have backups on each roster. While Pelini didn't say what positions were a concern, defensive line looks like the pinch point. With A.J. Natter sidelined after knee surgery, Nebraska only has five defensive ends practicing this spring. If you exclude Aaron Curry (neck injury suffered on Saturday) and Kevin Williams (recovering from ACL surgery last fall), Nebraska may only have five defensive tackles as well. Help is on the way in the fall with seven incoming defensive linemen expected to arrive, but for now, Nebraska is a bit short handed up front on defense.
That's led to some experimentation up front, most notably redshirt freshman Marcus Newby lining up at defensive end. He's been drawing rave reviews for his pass rushing, bring up recollections of Demorrio Williams, a siilarily undersized linebacker that Pelini occasionally lined up at defensive end in 2003. His speed allows him to get a jump on offensive tackles and he has the strength to fight them off.
Probably wouldn't want to face Wisconsin's rushing attack with Newby at defensive end, but in passing situations, the Newby/Randy Gregory combination could be extremely effective, especially against mobile quarterbacks looking to outrun larger (slower) defensive ends to the corner.
Personally, I like the idea of going offense vs. defense to give us some occasional matchups between the top units on both sides of the ball. That was always my favorite part of spring games until Bill Callahan decided to match up the starters against the scout team. The resulting mismatches didn't prove anything, and in hindsight, probably were a smokescreen to obscure the lack of progress in the program at that time.
It will create some odd scoring, but as we learned last year, odd scores were happening anyway. (How are you going to top Jack Hoffman's 69 yard touchdown in last year's game anyway?) Let's face it, spring games are not about the game, but rather about seeing the young kids, maybe get an idea of who's developing, and most importantly, letting kids experience a fun afternoon with Nebraska football.
And if you are thinking about heading to the game, the weather looks outstanding. While there is a 20% chance of rain, the forecast is for a high of 78 with south/southwest winds at 20 mph. Considering the winter we've had in Nebraska, it sounds like a perfect opportunity to get outside and enjoy some really nice weather.
And some Husker football. It'll have to tide you over until Labor Day weekend, so make the most of it.