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Husker Spring Game 2010: What Did We Learn?

It's easy to read too much into spring game performances. Remember Zac Lee last season? What about Sam Keller in 2007? Things are pretty much dialed down, and the coaches are focusing on individuals and how they compete against the talent on the opposing side. Back in the 90's, it was first string against first string, and you got a good read on things. Bill Callahan came in, and sent the scout team out to get run over by the starters, and any meaning to the spring game got thrown out the window. Bo Pelini has tried to even things out by splitting the roster fairly evenly, but still, you're never quite sure what you are seeing out there.

Normally, I'd do a report card, but this year, I had the pleasure of bringing my three year-old daughter to the game. So frequently, my attention was diverted to applying sunscreen, tying down her balloon, explaining the wave, and teaching her the proper way to chant "Suuuuuuuuuuuuhhh!!!" It was about halftime when I realized that I hadn't paid any attention to linebacker play at that point, and by then, most of the starters were ending their day.  So I won't try to snow you and make something up.

But I will point out the things I did notice out there:

Taylor Martinez is about as elusive as you want your quarterback to be in the run game. He had decent poise and found yardage when none was available. Some of his passes were deflected and represented poor decisions, but you have to expect that from a freshman playing his first game in front of 78,000 people.

If what we saw was basic schemes, look for the offense this fall to resemble what we saw in the Holiday Bowl and then some. I saw quite a bit of the "Pistol" formation, where the quarterback lines up as if a fullback and takes a shotgun snap, typically with the I-back lined up behind, though sometimes offset. We saw the Pistol at the start of the Missouri game, and a little bit in the Holiday Bowl. Nebraska is going to be committed to the quarterback run game this fall.

I still believe Zac Lee will be the starting quarterback against Western Kentucky, but it's not assured. Martinez and Cody Green certainly can overtake Lee over time. If I had to put my money on the quarterback that will give Lee the biggest threat this season, it would be Martinez based on what I saw yesterday.

Rex Burkhead was extremely impressive, especially considering that he (like Martinez) was darting through a defensive line that included Jared Crick and Pierre Allen.

Niles Paul burned Prince Amukamara several times. Interesting that Cody Green underthrew Paul deep yesterday; it makes me wonder if Paul has a little extra burst in his stride that his quarterbacks don't take into account.

Brandon Kinnie locked up the #2 receiver position yesterday, if there was any doubt. The way he drove Rickey Thenarse and Austin Cassidy into the end zone was impressive.

Kody Spano looks to be somewhat out of place with the evolving offensive focus, though that could be a result of two torn ACL's.

I wasn't terribly impressed by the Blackshirts yesterday. Maybe they dialed it down, or maybe they were set up to give the offense some confidence. Either way, this did not look anything like the defense we saw at the end of last season.

In the second half, Kyler Reed showed he can be a contributor as a receiver, much like he did last spring. K.C. Hyland made some acrobatic catches. We could have used him against Texas Tech.

Adi Kunalic has a big leg, but he's a little erratic on field goals. If his performance yesterday wasn't an aberration, I don't think Bo Pelini will be too interested in redshirting Kunalic so he can take over placekicking next season.

The best reason to attend the Spring Game? It's a chance to introduce kids to Husker football. Tickets are less expensive, they get to run around on the field at halftime, the game is shorter, and not competitive, so you don't mind the inevitable distractions that your kids provide. And you end up with so many more memories than you'd otherwise get from a scrimmage.