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Spring Football Mid-Term Exam: The Offense

We are halfway through spring practice. What have we learned?

Michigan State v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Do you hear that sound? It’s the sound of no spring practice. Therefore, there are no practice articles, tweets or reports coming out of One Memorial Stadium Drive.

As the schedule is set up this season, we are currently in the middle of a small break for the players during spring ball. Practice is scheduled to start back up on March 25th.

I reread many of the reports and articles coming out of the first half of spring practice, particularly from Nebraska 247 and Hail Varsity. If it was behind a pay-wall, I did not use that information.

Some of the information I gleamed from twitter and other sources as well.

Here is what I believe we have learned from the first half of spring practice on the offensive side of the ball.

Offensive Line

At this point it looks like Brendan Jaimes and Boe Wilson can be penciled in for left tackle and one of the guard spots, respectively. Matt Farniok will either be a starting guard or starting right tackle. So we have three of the five starters figured out at this point.

The coaching staff would really love to move Farniok inside from his current right tackle position. However, they are looking for another player to emerge at the right tackle position which would force their hand to move Matt inside.

That means there are two remaining starting spots on the offensive line (injures aside obviously).

One surprising revelation may be Trent Hixson. He is a sophomore walk-on from Skutt Catholic in Omaha and was last seen running with the ones at guard. He played four games last year and thus saved a year of eligibility. This is somewhat notable as we don’t see many walk-ons this early in a career pushing for playing time on the offensive line. During the Nebraska drill (the modified Oklahoma drill), it sounds like Hixson pancaked a defensive player. The team was pretty excited to see that happen.

So what about the center position? It appears to be between Will Farniok and Cameron Jurgens. Unless incoming walk-on from Iowa Western Community College, Josh Wegener, really impresses Coach Austin and Coach Frost, I believe Cameron Jurgens will be the starting center in game one against South Alabama. This also assumes that Desmond Bland doesn’t show up either (which sounds likely). Brendan Jaimes also mentioned Hunter Miller.

Coach Austin mentioned that Jurgens is still recovering from his foot injury and is not nearly 100%. The fact that he is still running with the ones makes me think the coaching staff is expecting him to be the starter in the fall. You have to be excited when one of the better pound-for-pound athletes on the team is your starting center.

An interesting note for me was that Coach Austin actually gave credit to Frost and said it was actually Frost who brought up the idea of Jurgens moving to center. The legend of Frost continues.

So who would end up moving Matt Farniok inside? Well that job likely will depend on Christian Gaylord and Bryce Benhart. One is at spring ball, and the other just went 34-0 and won a state title in wrestling. Gaylord needs to use the opportunity this spring to make an impression on the coaches. It sounds like he has been improving but either Gaylord or Benhart need to do well enough to push Matt Farniok inside. If they can do that then watch out.

Lastly, leadership on the offensive line has been a subject throughout spring practice. There appeared to be a void of leadership after Tanner Farmer and Jerald Foster graduated, which is why it has been a topic for Coach Austin. The player who has apparently stepped into that role is Matt Farniok. He is the most vocal of the group. Coach Austin has been challenging Brendan Jaimes and Boe Wilson to step up as well.

Summary: I believe the starters in the fall will be Brendan Jaimes, Boe Wilson, Cam Jurgens and Matt Farniok. The last remaining spot will ultimately depend on Bryce Benhart. If he shows up and takes that spot then that will allow Farniok to move inside. If he doesn’t then Trent Hixson will be starting.

If Benhart starts then that means Nebraska has two freshman (one redshirt) starting on the offensive line.


What is there to report? Nebraska has one of the best quarterbacks in the entire country. Adrian Martinez currently has 6/1 odds to win the Heisman according to Westgate in Las Vegas.

One thing to watch is the “emergence” of Luke McCaffrey. It is hard to tell if the excitement at spring ball revolves around the novelty of a new four star quarterback, whose name happens to be McCaffrey or if he has actually earned this praise.

Will he be the back-up quarterback in 2019? I know the coaching staff will want to have him redshirt. Heck, even McCaffrey may want to redshirt but if he’s clearly the second best quarterback on the roster then you probably get him ready to backup Martinez.

McCaffrey is currently battling Andrew Bunch, Matt Masker, and Noah Vedral for the back-up spot. If it is close between McCaffrey and one of those other guys then it would be safe to assume Coach Frost would choose to go with a guy like Vedral in order to save McCaffrey’s redshirt.

Sounds like McCaffrey has been up in the coaches offices so much that Coach Verduzco joked that Luke may have “mental issues.”

It is exciting to think about what may be at the quarterback position in the future.

Like the offensive line, Coach Frost has spent a lot of time talking about the need for Adrian Martinez to become a better leader. Martinez appears to be embracing the role as he has been talking to players from both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. I think that would be a tough job for a sophomore to try and be a leader of the team.

Summary: Obviously, barring injury (knocking on wood, throwing salt over my shoulder, buying lucky rabbit feet) Martinez will be a star this year. The most interesting thing to come out of spring is going to be who is the #2 quarterback. I believe Noah Vedral will end up winning that role for the first game. Toward the end of the season I believe we will start to see Luke McCaffrey get some looks.

Really sticking my neck out there right?

Wide Receivers

This group makes me nervous.

This group makes me excited. It can be both right?

Apparently Coach Walters walked into the wide receivers meeting and told the receivers to raise their hand if they have caught a touchdown pass at Nebraska.

Only one hand went up. J.D. Spielman, obviously.

Regardless that is a telling situation for the wide receiver group. There is a lot of talent in that room, but the majority of it has not been proved on the field.

The coaching staff is bringing speedsters like Jamie Nance who likely will be burning his redshirt this season because of his speed alone. Still there needs to be somebody who can consistently bring it every possession.

That could be Mike Williams. One surprising quote I saw was that Coach Walters compared Mike Williams to Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs. I don’t know about that one. Tyreek Hill makes fast NFL defenders look extremely slow. But as many who have experience in athletics know, if you are thinking then you likely aren’t moving. Possibly Mike Williams was thinking a little bit too much last season and could not show off his speed.

If Williams actually has Tyreek Hill type explosiveness, then add J.D. Spielman and a Jamie Nance. That. Is. A. Lot. Of. Speed.

There are other guys like Jaron Woodyard (track speed but maybe not football speed), Andre Hunt and Jaevon McQuitty. For what it is worth, I was on the field after the Michigan State game and I saw McQuitty run by me and he is a well put together kid. I couldn’t help but wonder why he wasn’t seeing the field.

Then there is Wan’Dale Robinson. If you want me to splash some cold water on this, then here you go. A lot of what we are hearing about Robinson reminds me of what we were hearing about Tyjon Lindsey a couple years ago.

Lindsey played as a true freshman and did a lot of east-west moves that never got him going north-south.

Hopefully Wan’Dale is different. Right now he is getting compared to Rondale Moore. That isn’t fair to the true freshman as Rondale Moore was likely the best wide receiver in the entire country last season. I think Robinson could be a game-changer but never reach the likes of Rondale Moore. That’d be okay.

Or he could be Rondale Moore.

Summary: J.D. Spielman is a sure thing. Now behind him is the question. I believe that Mike Williams will take a hold of the number two spot. Then after that it will likely be Nance. Hopefully Woodyard will make some noise in his senior season as well.

Running Backs

Straight up? I don’t expect Maurice Washington to play in 2019. So I’ll move on.

It could be the year of Wyatt Mazour. It could be the year of Jaylin Bradley. It will likely be the year of Dedrick Mills. However, Mills is not at spring ball.

Things coming out of the running back room have been relatively quiet compared to some of the other position groups.

Currently Nebraska has only two scholarship running backs on campus in Mazour and Bradley. That is kind of scary. Reinforcements will be coming with Mills, Ronald Thompkins and Rahmir Johnson in the fall.

So this spring is a great opportunity for both Mazour and Bradley. Reports are that Bradley has slimmed down and looks more explosive. We know that the coaching staff liked Bradley coming out of high school as they offered him a scholarship at UCF.

Summary: Best case scenario is that while Dedrick Mills gets a bunch of carries in the fall, we get to see Mazour and Bradley have great opportunities to hold off the other two incoming freshman.

Tight Ends

Jack Stoll is the guy. He looks like a future NFL tight end. Zach Duval has been doing his work on Stoll. Sounds like the same could be said for the rest of the tight end room.

Kurt Rafdal is down to 15% body fat. He came on at the end of last season.

The one I am excited about however is Katerian Legrone. It sounds like he was out of shape last year and was still being productive in practice. After the conditioning he should be in shape this year and adds to an already deep tight end room.

That room also includes Austin Allen who also has had a great spring as he tries to push Stoll for the top spot.

Summary: There is a lot to like in this tight end group. Stoll is numero uno but if the others can make strides then it will be gravy.