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Nebraska Spring Game Report Card: Defense 46, Offense 41

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David McGee

I have to admit I felt gipped at the start of Nebraska's spring game, as I fully expected that with the offense vs. defense format, we'd see the starters facing off against the starters for at least part of the game. Well, that didn't happen. In fact, I even caught early looks at two of the reserves (Tanner Zlab and Reid Karel) I mentioned in my discussion of the scoring system. So much of the first half was spent watching the lower units trying to overcome the top unit - and that made the game a little less than interesting to me.

So much so, that I'm dispensing with my usual grading system, which doesn't work as well in a spring game anyway...and instead, focus on thoughts I had while watching the game at each position.  No grades for the Huskers on this one, folks.  But be sure to give your thoughts in the comments, gang.

QB: If you are still hoping that somebody not named Tommy Armstrong will be the starting quarterback, you're going to be disappointed. While Tommy had more than his share of misfired passes, he's still the incumbent starter and nobody is presenting a serious challenge to him. Ryker Fyfe did get into a rhythm once he started facing the reserves. AJ Bush really looks like a quarterback you'd love to like - until you see several of his passes landing somewhere other than near the intended receiver. (Again, that could sometimes be because the receiver ran the wrong route.)

Then there's Patrick O'Brien, who entered the game in the fourth quarter and pretty much showed why he was the fourth quarterback in the game. OK, Husker fans - it's time to dial it down on "POB Hype".  Way, way down.  It's going to take him time to adjust to the speed of the college game, and his skill set demands that he master the playbook. He's not going to be able to improvise and let his athletic ability overcome his inexperience. He's going to have to grow into the role. He's not going to take over the starting job from Tommy Armstrong, no matter how much you'd like him to be able to do that. Ideally, he'd redshirt this fall and then come back to battle for the open job in 2017.  For now fans, just dial it down.  Preferably all the way to zero.

I-Back: Terrell Newby only played early against the lower units; six carries for big yards through big holes.  Mikale Wilbon impressed me with his opening carry when he gained five yards after contact to turn a two yard loss against the top defense into a three yard gain.  I really do hope we'll see more of him in the fall.  Devine Ozigbo looked good early, but less so later as the game wore on. Adam Taylor didn't make an appearance until the fourth quarter; clearly, Taylor isn't in the mix for game action at I-back. One has to wonder whether he's going to be happy contributing on special teams and getting an education in Lincoln, or if he might want to step down to division 1-AA for his final two years of eligibility.

Wide Receiver: A lot of multiple tight end sets were used in the running game, but otherwise, I didn't notice much. Derrion Grim caught a couple of passes and ran the only jet sweep of the game.

Offensive Line: With the mismatches, I didn't pay much attention to the lines, though it was noteworthy that redshirt freshman Michael Decker started at center.  A lot of young talent has been assembled the last couple of years; we'll find out in the fall how they work out.

Defensive Line: The departure of Greg McMullen raises a lot of questions in my mind.  First, Nebraska's four most experienced defensive linemen with eligibility left have left the program since the Foster Farms Bowl. Each player has his own reasons, but that's turnover that no program can afford to have. McMullen's departure in the middle of spring practice raises it's own questions, starting with defensive coordinator Mark Banker being out of the loop.

The players knew before the game. Mike Riley seemed to know Thursday. But somehow, Mark Banker didn't know until the media told him after the game. Excuse me? There appears to be a disconnect on the coaching staff here that is concerning, and it's not the first curious observance I've had of Banker's relationship with Mike Riley. Last month, BBanker talked up Hank Hughes coaching performance last season, and when Riley hired John Parrella to replace Hughes, Banker did not sit in on the interviews.  (Wait...the defensive coordinator doesn't sit in on the interviews for a defensive line coach?)  Mmmmkay.

Linebacker: As the game progressed, Mohammed Barry showed flashes in the second half as the reserves played.  He might be a guy who could contribute a bit this next season.

Secondary: The two redshirt freshmen from Colorado caught my eye, starting with cornerback Avery Anderson, who had a couple of big hits early. Eric Lee, Jr. led the defense in tackles.  If the secondary gets healthy this summer, I think there's more depth here than people think.

BTN: Somebody has some 'xplaining to do here with not televising the fourth quarter of the spring game. I understand that BTN only allocated two hours of air time for the broadcast, though I'd argue that cutting out halftime would have saved some time for the fourth quarter.  But is 2 hours enough for a spring game?  (And why did it take 90 minutes to play the first half with a running clock?)  And why did the online stream get shut down as well in the fourth quarter?

And while Ohio State and Alabama showed that Nebraska isn't alone in showing up for spring football, it is relatively uncommon.

That's so cute...