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NEBRASKA SPRING FOOTBALL PREVIEW: TEAM OVERVIEW

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It’s the biggest practice of the year - can I get a HELL YEAH?

Nebraska Spring Game Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

The 2021 I can’t believe these crazy sumbitches still go batshit to tailgate, watch a practice and then spend the night vomiting in the gutters Spring Game is next Saturday and hope springs eternal yet again. Since we’ll be doing another 2021 Huskers Preview before, you know, the season actually is about to start, I think we can dance around a little bit knowing no one’s going to remember any of this in August.

So print this off, lock the bathroom door, pop a squat and make sure there’s paper on that roll before you fully commit to serious bathroom study of this document. If you have a spouse, kids or, God forbid, both, tell them mommy or daddy must’ve ate him or herself some bad chili at lunch if anyone starts pounding on the bathroom door. That’ll buy you five more minutes. I think of myself as a black belt in bathroom reading and believe me when I say me and Phil Steele have spent much quality time in there over the years. OK, that sounded weird - me and his magazine.

Anyhow, let’s get this Spring preview started. We’ll just begin at the beginning.

Nebraska v Rutgers Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images

WHERE WE WERE - 2020

12-20.

That’s where our record sits after Year 3 of the Scott Frost Era. All a disaster, correct? Not so fast, my friend. Not to drag out the schedule but getting run out of the stadium by everyone from CFB Playoff contenders to 7-5 teams at 2017 year-end has been replaced by...well…still getting run by the blue chippers (basically Ohio State). But the other games have become tight losses which can usually be blamed on us stepping on our own di-, sorry, feet.

As a matter of fact, that leads us to our first sidebar.


SIDEBAR - IN A CLOSE ALTERNATE REALITY, WE WENT 7-1 IN 2020

This actually happened. Stan Lee and Dr. Strange told me in a dream. At least, I hope I was sleeping. Otherwise, WTSF?? Don’t believe me? Come along.

2020 As It Should Have Happened

10/24 Ohio State L 17-52

Yeah, this was pretty much happening no matter what.

10/31 Wisconsin COVID 1 Bucky 0

These pansies obviously spent the week licking countertops and dirty plates choosing to deal with the ‘Rona instead of the Huskers. This is now considered a forfeit and we are 1-1.

11/07 Northwestern L 13-21

Despite his worst passing game of the year, Martinez led all rushers with 102 yards and the Huskers outgained the top 10 Huskies by 125 yards. In the alternate reality, their red zone play isn’t a disaster and we win by 10. ‘Skers are now 2-1.

11/14 Penn State W 30-23

We don’t take our foot off the gas this time, Martinez replaces Luke when he becomes ineffective in the 2nd half and Huskers win by 17. 3-1.

11/21 Illinois L 23-41

On a roll at this point, the Huskers start this game off with an option left instead of a screen. On his way out of bounds, Dedrick flattens the ref who called the stupid screen a backwards pass in our reality. Instead, the boys drive for 6 right out of the gate. Final 41-23 but Huskers on top this time. The universe approves of linear flips. 4-1.

11/27 Iowa L 20-26

A well-oiled machine now ranked 11th has a QB and head coach on the same page late in a tight game. With Iowa thinking we’re playing for the tie, Martinez hits Betts on a short cross off play action who quickly pitches to Mills on the hook and ladder instead. 27-23 NU. 5-1. Suck it, Iowa.

Nebraska v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

12/05 Purdue W 37-27

44-13 this time. Rondale Moore is so shaken by it all, he opts out the remainder of the season. 6-1.

12/12 Minnesota L 17-24

In a sensible reality, a team with half the roster suited up plays valiantly but falls hard late by 38-14. Fleck is found in the hallway muttering to himself while rowing an imaginary boat with a couple of chair legs. 7-1

12/18 Rutgers W 28-21

This game never happens. See below. We remain 7-1.

12/20 B1G Title Game Announcement

Newly appointed B1G Commish DeWayne “The Rock” Johnson announces that the Nebraska Cornhuskers are the 2020 Big 10 Champions by virtue of the fact that Ohio St. did not play the required number of games. Ryan Day and the Buckeye contingent begin screaming in earnest before The Rock closes his eyes, takes a deep breath and announces:

“Stop right there, you red-nosed, pie-faced jackass! Two things - two! Your role, know it! Your mouth, shut it! What the hell did you say your name was anyway???!”

“I’m the head coach of Ohio St!! I’m Ryan Da-“

“IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOUR NAME IS!!!”

(Reporters begin cheering as Day stomps around in a fury.)

“Listen up! You idiots made a rule. The Huskers knew it was a stupid rule, said allow us all fill-in games! But uh-uh! Ya’ had to laugh and play your stupid little games and then whoops, it doesn’t work out and now we’re supposed to change the rule or start scheduling other games just to make your sorry candy-asses happy??

“So here’s how it’s goin’ down! The Huskers are B1G champs! Ohio St can suck each other’s Buckeyes! Indiana - your state is just too weird, we can’t have you jabronis on national TV! And that’s the way it’s gonna be...IF YA SMELLLEELLLOW! WHAT THE ROCK! Is cookin’.” (Mic drop)

Same Evening - 2020 CFP Announcement

The field:

Clemson 8-1 ACC Champs

Oklahoma 8-1 Big 12 Champs

Alabama 4-3 3rd Place SEC West - eye test

Notre Dame 2-6 - 4th Place ACC North - eye test - god’s team

Monday

Shafted in the end even in the alternate reality, the Huskers decide to spend holidays with their families. The Rock accidentally kills Lou Holtz on ESPN that night demonstrating the Rock Bottom with a fervor.


SO WHAT’S OUR STARTING 22 LOOK LIKE ON 4/24/21?

Let’s get serious for a bit. We’ve been rolling out our position previews for the last couple of weeks, so I obviously don’t need to rehash it all with a major breakdown. Having no inside info whatsoever, but scanning articles here and there, here’s where the depth chart seems to be playing out based on scrimmages, coaches comments, observations, etc. A few notes below each 11:

Depth Chart

QB - Martinez - Haarberg - Smothers

RB - Stepp - Ervin/Morrison/Scott/Yant/Johnson/Thompkins

WR - Toure

WR - Manning - Brown/Falck/Martin/Nixon (basically all the WR backups in this spot)

WR- Betts

TE - Allen/Fidone/Vokolec

LT - Corcoran - Miller

LG - Piper - Nouili

C - Jurgens - Hixson

RG - Sichterman - Bando/Banks

RT - Benhart

  • QB - Martinez accuracy on deep balls improving and he is a step faster. Smothers starting to click but the huge surprise is Haarberg who might be the steal of the class - 6’6”, athletic, throwing motion already solid and firing piss missiles. Worth following.
  • RB - Everyone’s hurt and former 4-star 240 lb. walk-on Yant is taking full advantage.
  • WR - All of the sudden, we have potential NFL draft picks for the starting 3.
  • TE - Anything goes here as Fidone has awakened. Add these guys to the WR corps and we have 10 guys possibly seeing reps.
  • OL- Sichterman is the big story as he may have crashed the party to steal the RG starting job

DE - Stille - Thomas

DT - Daniels

DE - Robinson - Rogers

OLB - Tannor

ILB - Honas - Reimer

ILB - Kolarevic - Henrich

OLB - Nelson - Payne

Hybrid - Domann - Wright/Gifford

CB - Taylor-Britt

CB - Newsome - Clark/Joseph

S - Williams - Pola-Gates

S - Dismuke - Farmer

  • No one was calling for Chinander’s head anymore at the end of 2020. The Blackshirts are starting to regain some swagger.
  • DL - The D-line has gone from being shoved around to doing some shoving and pressuring the QB’s. These guys appear primed to keep it going.
  • LB’s - Most of the starters seemed locked in but apparently guys like Henrich, Payne and Gifford are pushing. And Kolarevic has been described by more than one teammate as a “freak”. So happy to finally take advantage of Osborne’s Iowa Western gift.
  • DB - Cam Taylor-Britt is going to make a big name for himself this year. That is all.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 18 Nebraska at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

SIDEBAR 2 - WHY DO WE ALWAYS HATE OUR STARTING QUARTERBACKS??

After a tumultuous (God, I’ve always wanted to use that word) 2019 season, Adrian Martinez overcame some adversity to win his job back after losing it, finished out the season on a high note and if Husker fans were pigeons and seagulls, the poor guy still would have been dodging bird shit pellets as he ran to classes those last four weeks.

Got me thinking - we as loyal Big Red enthusiasts have made an art form of proverbially crapping on our QB1 for decades. In recognition of their service, here’s some quick love for some of those who got their Nebraska dream job. And then at times occasionally became jealous of that biology major anonymously pulling a Saturday night shift in the KFC drive thru on 10th & Cornhusker.

1992-1995 - Tommie Frazier

The Gold Standard and our starting point. Believe it or not, still a few folks who thought Berringer was better. Can’t imagine why.

1996-1997 - Scott Frost

Yes, there was actually an outcry at one point to replace him with Frankie London. This happened.

1998-2001 - Eric Crouch

Won a Heisman. And you can still find people who will piss & moan about, “But he went home on a Friday & Frankie followed him and got him back.” Pretty good coach’s call as it turned out.

Eric Crouch #7

2002-2003 - Jamaal Lord

Should have been an All-American strong safety. Moved to QB to take one for the team. Took a bunch of slag from fans for his passing shortcomings. Got drafted by the Texans as a strong safety.

2004 - Joe Dailey

OK, gotta be honest, this didn’t work out too well (49% comp%, more INT’s than TD’s and 1.0 YPC rushing). But happy he landed on his feet to start a season at UNC.

2005-2006 - Zac Taylor

A just-in-case-Harrison-Beck-doesn’t-work-out transfer signing. Some thrilling wins including a fade to Purify against the aTm and a trip to the Big 12 Title Game. Still playing out as a win for us today - Beck is shirtless and gut-full on TikTok missing a few teeth and chucking heaters while acting strange. Zac is an NFL head coach.

2007 - Sam Keller

A whipping boy of the highest order but scared the dog piss out of the ‘Horns till his injury & saved us a giant embarrassment by chucking 400+ yards on a frisky Ball St team to pull a W. I met him at the horse races before that season - he’s a damn nice kid.

2008 - Joe Ganz

Our own Brett Favre - the gunslinger minus flogging the dolphin in Crocs at female reporters on his iPhone. Could throw crippling INT’s but the sonofabitch was never boring on the field or being interviewed on radio.

2009 - Zac Lee

The definition of average and unspectacular but took it like a champ when he lost his job to a redshirt frosh named…..

2010-2013 - Taylor Martinez (injured 2013)

Never saw a fan base get so irritated by a throwing motion and saying he wanted to win championships. Then saying he just wanted to do his best. All he did was drop torpedos on the Husker record books. Go to YouTube and watch some highlight reels. There’s no shortage.

Nebraska v Minnesota Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

2013 - Ron Kellogg

Oh 2013, when Big Red had about 500 lbs of QB timeshare after Taylor went down. We’ll always have Northwestern and the Hail Westy.

2013-2016 - Tommy Armstrong

OK, I was guilty as anyone of profanely expressing my opinions on Tommyballs after yet another desperate pass failed to find its way through 2 LB’s, a strong safety, the nickel back and an errant towel boy. But no one dislodged him as QB1 in 4 years. Respect.

2017 - Tanner Lee

Mr. Pick Six was responsible for more than one Hi-Def flat screen in this state eating a tight spiral from a Bud Lite tall boy during his lone season as a starter, but he is one of three QB’s on this list to be drafted in the NFL. And the only to do it as a QB.

2018 - ? - Adrian Martinez

In case anyone’s confused, he’s the guy who in 2020 lost his job, worked his ass off to get it back while supporting the guy who got the nod, won the job back and completed over 77% of his passes to close the season. Not the one who lost his job, basically checked out & then transferred. Just sayin’. I believe that’s what we call class. First class.

(You don’t have to watch it all - just skip to about the 4:00 MINUTE MARK)


QUICK THOUGHTS ON THE TRANSFER PORTAL

It’s here to stay. Deal with it. I made fun of Luke but our transfers aren’t indicative of a systemic problem. It’s happening everywhere and will continue to now that they are free to move on for playing time, realizing their 1st school just isn’t a good fit, etc, They’re kids and some of these decisions will be bad. But at least they have the freedom to make them without penalty.

However, if you feel strongly about it, please heartily boo Stepp and Toure in 2021. That is all.


PREDICTION TIME - WHAT WILL THE 2021. SEASON BRING ON THE FIELD?

08/28 Illinois - Champaign, IL - Eye popper - 47-14

09/11 Buffalo - Lincoln - Tribute to Turner Gill followed by a letdown win - 34-20

09/18 Oklahoma - Norman, OK - We’re not there yet, but respect earned - 24-35

09/25 Michigan State - East Lansing, MI - Frost is not a Tucker fan - 44-10

10/02 Northwestern - Lincoln - our turn in this weird rivalry - 28-27 (insert weird finish story here)

10/09 Michigan - Lincoln - the 2021 Hot Seat Bowl - the shoot ourselves in the toe-itis disease bites. 31-35. Grumbling ensues.

10/16 Minnesota - Minneapolis, MN - Finally getting over on that ass, PJ Fleck, helps all of our souls - 37-20

10/30 Purdue - Lincoln - Rough start while looking ahead but - 41-23

11/06 Ohio State - Lincoln - Memorial on fire for 6-2 Huskers but Jimmy’s and Joe’s still beat X’s & O’s - 23-38

11/13 Southeastern Louisiana - Lincoln - I dunno, 77-7 or something.

11/20 Wisconsin - Madison, WI - I asked Siri who owns Nebraska. She said Wisconsin. 34-35, FG as time runs out

11/26 Iowa - Lincoln - facing a crowd in Lincoln who actually is hoping for more than keep-it-close, the wheels fall off on Iowa for once. Huskers jump out 28-7 with 10 mins to go in the 2nd quarter and Frost gets his UCF mojo back and keeps his foot on the gas for once. 48-13. Six lifetime season ticket holders die of exhaustion while trying to sing the Nana-heyhey-goodbye song for a sixth straight stanza.

Final record 8-4. Assume that lands us the Capital One Bowl because when does it not? If the Capital One Bowl is still around.

Final verdict - the Huskers clean up enough mental errors and a roster of kids who want to be here for the right reasons start turning those close losses of the last couple years into W’s as the Huskers finally return to a bowl game.


PREDICTION TIME - SPRING GAME EDITION.

Someone we’ve barely heard of opens eyes with big plays against the 4th and 5th string but fails to play a down in 2021 - a Spring Game tradition as old as the game itself.

WOOOO! You bet!!
Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images