The weather forecast looks amazing for this year's Nebraska spring football game. Temperatures in the low 70's and partly cloudy skies are a major improvement from last year's thunderstorms that washed out the 2012 game. The rosters are now set. Taylor Martinez will start at quarterback for the Red squad, and will give way to Tommy Armstrong after a couple of series. They'll be throwing to Jamal Turner, Quincy Enunwa, Sam Cotton, and hopefully redshirt freshman Alonzo Moore. Imani Cross will be the I-back for the Reds, running behind a line that features Brent Qvale, Spencer Long, Andrew Rodriguez, and Mark Pelini.
Facing off against the Red offense will be the White squad's defense with Broderick Nickens and Kevin Williams at defensive tackle, Greg McMullen and Avery Moss at defensive end, and a linebacking corps of Zaire Anderson, Jared Afalava, Max Pirman, and Courtney Love. The White secondary will have Mohammed Seisay, Jonathan Rose, and Josh Mitchell at cornerback, with only Corey Cooper listed as a safety for the White squad.
Obviously, everybody else who will play are on the other squads. The White offense will have Jordan Westerkamp, Cole Pensick, Jake Cotton, Jeremiah Siriles, and Kenny Bell. The Red defense will have Vincent Valentine, Aaron Curry, Jay Guy, Jason Ankrah, Michael Rose, Thomas Brown, Trevor Roach, Harvey Jackson, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Ciante Evans, and Wil Richards.
At first glance, I'd put the Red squad as a 10 point favorite. The Reds look to have much more of the offensive talent, and might have a slight edge on defense. Of course, there are so many youngsters that will be expected to contribute on defense, that it's silly to try and predict much of anything.
And that's a good thing: Spring football is for the youngsters. We hopefully won't see much from Taylor Martinez in this game. Everybody pretty much knows what types of things Martinez can do, and those aren't necessary in a scrimmage. Take a few snaps, and then sign autographs. Who fans want to see are guys like Tommy Armstrong, the touted redshirt freshman quarterback who'll be one of two candidates to be the starter in 2014.
Which of the young linebackers will impress? Will anybody make an impression on the defensive line? Can any of the young offensive linemen catch our attention? And what about those touted freshman receivers like Jordan Westerkamp and Alonzo Moore? Moore was listed as questionable earlier this week, so even if he does play, we may not get a good read on his abilities.
That's what the spring football game is about: the young kids trying to make a first impression on fans. Fans should be careful not to overreact to a great performance by anybody in this game; two years ago, Brion Carnes looked fantastic as the White team quarterback. He's switched to receiver last fall after getting passed on the depth chart.
Perhaps more important to the future of Nebraska football are the other kids. Not the ones on the field...the ones in the stands. The spring game is a perfect opportunity for families to enjoy an afternoon of Nebraska football at a reasonable price. Kids get to run around on the field at halftime (if only to take the "Drug Free Pledge"), and for many, it's their only opportunity to get inside the stadium, which is sold out on fall Saturdays. I remember my parents taking me when I was younger, and the tradition continues as I'll be bringing my kids to the game again.
Yeah, that means I'll be distracted at times, explaining what is happening. I may not pay a lot of attention to line play, especially when my daughter starts asking 50 questions about what is happening. But that's a good thing. I'll teach them to "wave the corn stalks" after each touchdown and how to clap to the Tunnel Walk.
And that's the most important part of the spring game. Sharing my love of Nebraska football with the next generation of fans. I remember how excited I was as a kid to get to go to Lincoln for a game. It didn't matter as much to me whether it was the 1979 Spring Game or the 1978 Oklahoma game. Those experiences live with you forever.
So for one afternoon, let's put 70-31 aside and really just sit back and enjoy Nebraska football. Grab some popcorn and a hot dog. If the kids want to start the wave, go ahead and let them. The spring game is all about the kids, because they will be the fans who Nebraska will be counting on to keep that sellout streak going for another 50 years.