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2015 Spring Game Report Card: Red 24, White 15

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One hander? Yes!
One hander? Yes!
David McGee

Sam McKewon kind of summed up Nebraska's 2015 Spring Game for me with this quote:

They watched 408 yards of punts — booted by Sam Foltz, arguably the afternoon’s top performer — and a strange safety taken by starting quarterback Tommy Armstrong at the end of the first half, when he mistakenly thought offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf told him, in an earpiece, to take one.

From my perspective, it was one of the most lackluster spring games in many years. Eight first half punts nearly wore out Foltz's leg; in the second half, both squads went for it on fourth down each time. When the punter gets the mention as the player of the game, that's usually a sign that the game didn't go well.

But let's not forget this is the spring game.  It doesn't really count; it's an exhibition. It's far too easy to read too much into it. That doesn't change the scores...just means that in the grand scheme of things, these grades won't really matter.

QB: The first quarter was pretty bad. Eight of 16 passing for 50 yards won't get anybody's attention. Tommy Armstrong completed a couple of short passes, while A.J. Bush misfired at open receivers. It looked really bad...then Zack Darlington came into the game. A little rusty at first, but then he found Jamal Turner over the middle.  On the next drive, another great pass to Turner for a 29 yard touchdown. It's nice to see that Riley decided to retain some of the zone read game; that's something these players should be able to execute.  All of the quarterbacks looked better in the second half, though. Nice read by both Armstrong and De'Mornay Pierson-El for a 32 yard touchdown.  In the fourth quarter, we finally saw Johnny Stanton enter the game. That seems to be a clear indication to me that both Darlington and Bush have passed him on the depth chart. I won't be surprised if Stanton is elsewhere in the fall - either another position or at another school - because it doesn't look like he's going to see much action at Nebraska as a quarterback barring injuries.  Grade: D+

I-Back: Terrell Newby looked pretty good in the first quarter, but didn't play much after that. He looks like he's atop the depth chart. After that, who knows.  I was more impressed by Adam Taylor in the first half and Mikale Wilbon in the second. What does that mean for Imani Cross as a senior this year? That's a really good question. There's some talent here, and I suspect we'll see Mike Riley and Danny Langsdorf embracing quite a bit of Tim Beck's offense (especially the zone read) to take advantage of what these players do best.  Grade: B+

WR: We know all about Pierson-El, and you can expect to see him used extensively this season. But is Jamal Turner returning to his sophomore form? He's missed most of the last two seasons with injuries, and he looks healthy and ready to contribute this season. What about the new guys? Jariah Tolbert looks like a keeper.  Kevin Gladney might be a contributor as well.  But Mike Riley is going to learn what Tim Beck already figured out: while you can make a quarterback throw the ball to a tight end, you can't make him catch the ball. FWIW, Sam Cotton did have a nice catch. But this fall, it looks like it'll be up to Matt Snyder if a tight end is going to contribute in the passing game.  Grade: B+

OL: I didn't get as good of a look at the line as I had planned. Certainly D.J. Foster held his own on the white squad. Several shotgun snaps were low, so that's something that is going to need to be addressed in 7 on 7 drills.  Grade: B

DL: Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine looked exactly as you might expect in a scrimmage. Jack Gangwish did get flagged for a helmet on helmet hit...one of those things you don't want to see anymore. Although Freedom Akinmoldium didn't make much of an impact on the stat sheet, he did catch my attention more than once.  Grade: B

LB: Josh Banderas wore Nate Gerry's jersey as a tribute and put on a Gerry-like performance. It's clear that Banderas might be the biggest benefactor of the coaching change. It's clear there was no love lost between Banderas and the previous staff. Grade: B

Secondary: It was kind of hard to really evaluate the secondary at times because of the erratic nature of the passes they were defending. Josh Kalu got burned a couple of times. Early enrollee Eric Lee did catch my eye the most with his physical play defending the pass. He never drew a flag in the scrimmage...but if it were a real game, that might be a different situation. Grade: B

Special Teams: Pierson-El is, well, Pierson-El. Even if he can't get past the punter... though when the punter is as good as Sam Foltz is, well, that's still pretty good.  Brandon Reilly had a nifty kickoff return as well.  Grade: A

Overall: C+ Let's not make more of this than it really is.  A scrimmage.

Elsewhere in Spring Football

That's so cute...