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NEBRASKA SPRING GAME 2023: Some Thoughts, Questions, Stats and Quotes

At the end of the day, it was a typical spring game - some good, some bad, some ugly (“FUMBLES” cough, cough)

Nebraska Spring Football Game
Jeff Sims definitely impressed with the accuracy,
Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Today’s landslide winner for most-told joke in Nebraska - wild guesses anyone?

“Hey, man! Huskers won!! Harharharharhar!!!”

So after a (typical) up/down 2023 Spring Game, maybe Kool-Aid sales aren’t quite yet through the roof. Obviously, some winter conditioning and a few spring practices aren’t going to flip a 180 degree turnaround. But as the sun sets, improvement was evident in some areas and more is needed in others, yes?

Let’s take a look back at what we thought we saw while the coaches are buried in film.


  • I was told during warmups by someone attending the game the number of players suited up was visibly lower than in the past few years. There are currently 109 players rostered; when the incoming freshmen are added, the total is 135 - still well lower than 150-160 carried by Frost. And don’t forget we’ll probably see 15 or so scholarship players moving on in the next few weeks. Walk-ons will still be a big part of the program going forward but it’s going to be more selective which should improve practice quality.
  • Coach Rhule was definitely digging his First Tunnel Walk - the man was grinning from ear to ear.
  • They ran fullback dive on the first play and the game was then stopped and the ball given to Coach Solich. 45 yard lines were added for the day to further honor him - 45 was Frank’s old number with the Huskers.
  • Nate Boerkircher was supposed to be shunted aside for Thomas Fidone and Arik Gilbert, but no one has given him that message yet. He had the most receiving yards on the day and had the offense’s longest play catching a 38-yard toss from Jeff Sims on the opening drive.
  • Ajay Allen had a couple nice runs early but then started a trend by dropping the first of the Huskers’ 8 fumbles on the day.
  • Billy Kemp IV made his presence felt early by catching 2 passes for 39 yards early from Sims and a 2-point conversion from Haarberg.
  • Rahmir Johnson had a couple of nice start/stop/start runs which showed patience and vision. His speed, hands and quickness should find him some touches this season in a loaded RB room.
  • I just saw a frickin’ T-shirt Gatling Gun CANNON!! This may be the best development of the day, I’m not lying. If they have a Take the Gatling Cannon for a Day raffle, I’m 100% all over it. The possibilities to wreak havoc with that sumbitch are endless. This needs to happen.
  • It was nice to see Anthony Grant with a few nice totes hard up the gut. That went away as last season progressed. (Maybe he got a little tired of being hit in the backfield as soon as he got the ball?)
  • Michael Booker III picked up a fumble and ran it back 53 yards for a TD for the game’s biggest play.
  • Of course it was an incomplete pass - but did anyone actually at the game want replay to drag things on any longer? I didn’t think so.
  • Simms has definitely separated from every other QB who suited up today. There are currently 6 scholarship QB’s and I can’t help but think there will be 3 or maybe 4 at most when fall camp rolls around. Just sayin’.
  • Yikes, two drops from Arik Gilbert, one bad and that wasn’t good. Is this the reason it never clicked at Georgia?
  • Chubba Purdy’s strong suit still appears to be the scramble.
  • Jeremiah Sirles is very large. He looked like Andre the damn Giant in the TV booth when standing with Frank and the B1G dude.
  • I noticed there are no actual FB’s listed on the roster. Trevor Ruth, walk-on fullback, is listed as an RB and everyone I saw line up at fullback is a TE. “Fullback” was a fun way to get “Run the DAMN BALL” charter members jacked, but I think we’re talking H-Back.
  • MJ Sherman, one of the Corn Dawg transfers, laid a hit on some poor bastard trying to come up the middle and I flinched. The victim’s soul definitely peeked out of his body.
  • Get that weak ass fake punt game away from Kai Wallin. He was NOT having it. He shortly after added a sack for good measure.
  • If we’re honest, that 4th quarter was a bit of a shit show.
Nebraska Spring Football Game Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images


1) The QB Battle - If today showed us something we already probably knew, it’s that the starting QB battle is down to Casey Thompson and Jeff Sims. There was noise about Haarberg pushing, but while he may be sitting 3rd, he’s not in that battle yet. Sims looks to have the edge, but I’m not ready to bet against someone as competitive as Casey just yet.

Regardless of who wins out initially, the QB run game suggests we will need them both and often before this season concludes.

2) Who’s Gonna Get Carries? - Based on the distribution of carries today, Grant may have an early advantage. However, Allen, Ervin and Rahmir all had a couple of moments as well. Despite some nice runs by alll, no one took a play into the secondary except for perhaps Grant’s 11-yard dash. This competition will carry into the fall as well.

3) O-line Depth - This is the biggest concern. Including the three incoming frosh and walk-ons, there are currently 18 rostered, but they had to work through spring with only 10. Unless another body or two can be found in the portal, this may a problem which can’t be addressed until the next recruiting cycle.

4) Will TE Potential Be Reached? - This is 100% about Arik Gilbert and Thomas Fidone. Anyone expecting a flash of that 5-star potential had to be disappointed. Rhule and the coaches are very excited about both, but Fidone being limited and Gilbert’s two drops has left everyone still wanting till fall.

Nebraska Spring Football Game Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images


No one threw up any individual numbers which popped off the page, but there were a few numbers of note:


Jeff Sims - 9/13 138 yds passing (no TD’s or picks) - On a windy day, he clearly had the best control and accuracy.

Timmy Bleekrode - 49 yd FG (and 2 misses). Bleekrode will face a challenge in the fall from true freshman, Tristan Alvano.


Princewill Umanmielen - 1 sack 3 TFL - There is talk about how effective he will be down the road with a few more pounds but he didn’t play small today.

Kai Wallin - 1 sack 2 TFL 1 Fumble Recovery - Another youngster who made his presence felt.

Gage Stenger - 1 TFL 1 INT 1 Fumble Recovery - This former Millard South QB also wreaked some havoc.

Michael Booker III - 53 yd Recovery & return forTD - Of course it was incomplete but let’s just let this Husker legacy enjoy his Spring Game moment.

MJ Sherman - 1 TFL & 1 near murder - Has everyone seen the original “The Longest Yard”? I think he broke his f*ckin’ neck. (NSFW but very funny)



“I was really proud of our guys, to see them dap kids up, sign autographs, go around and shake people’s hands. I’m proud of our guys for that, really grateful for all the people who came and watched us play. It wasn’t the warmest day, as you guys all know, it was warm in the box, but it wasn’t on the field. I think it speaks volumes about our team.”

“Jeff (Sims) is really cool and calm out there. I like his demeanor and feel. He’s played a lot of football, so I thought he thought he looked pretty good.”

“He’s a passer (Sims). He’s a passer who runs 4.4, he’s not a runner that throws. He’s a passer. I think he does some things with his legs, extending plays, you know, the one he spun out, so that’s really what we’re looking for from him.”

“Yeah, I mean, Cameron (Lenhardt), Princewill (Umanmielen), Maverick (Noonan). They play like older players. You bring those guys in, especially the positions – Cam has this unique ability, like his hands and feet don’t stop. He’s able to push pockets and get pressure on the quarterback. Princewill has a unique ability to get off of blocks. He’s really great with his hands. Maverick’s been so versatile. The whole spring they’ve kind of fit in and they’ve gone with the ones and they’ve gone with the twos to play different positions. There’s no entitlement, they’re really tough, team guys.”

“To me, on offense, there’s no excuse for fumbles. No excuse. I can live with an interception here or there. It will result in not playing, to be quite honest. Now, we’re not here to play in fear. It’s not one time and you’re done, but you have to have the ability to protect the football.”

“(Regarding the fake punts) I said to [Brian] Buschini, ‘Hey, bro, if they all cover, pull the ball down and run.’ And so he’s got a great arm, we say this, but they didn’t work out. I was just trying to get a first down to keep them on the field just to keep the reps even.”


On the Husker crowd “It was amazing. I ran out there and was like ‘man this feels like a real game.’ It was crazy to see that many people show up to a spring game. That was really one of the big reasons why I came here because on my visit they said the fans were crazy and I know that was something I have always wanted to experience.”

On how the other quarterbacks have pushed each other “Heinrich (Haarberg) is a workhorse. He’s big, physical, strong, and can throw the ball. He’s definitely been working hard. All the quarterbacks have. We’ve been feeding off each other and pushing each other. I think that’s something that has helped us a lot throughout the spring. Helping each other out, pushing each other, competing. I think that always drives us to be better.”


On how the Husker scheme fits his skillset “It just really boils down to execution. I think that’s why I just really pride myself on making sure I’m in the right spot, right alignment. Make sure I do everything right.”

On being a leader “I’m glad I had the opportunity to be a leader here. I’m willingly accepting that role. As a leader, you don’t just walk in and demand to be a leader. The team has to give you that respect so I’m just making sure I do what I’ve got to do to be trustworthy and accountable within every aspect and make sure that the team gives me that position, not me just taking it, so just taking the right steps.”


On your touchdown run and the future “It was an opportunity there for me to score touchdowns on the opening, and I took advantage of the opportunity. I feel great out there and still feel like the old me and have just been pursuing my dreams, trying to take a step forward and get better each and every day. We will not take the summer for granted. I’m going to work hard and get ready for the season.”

Nebraska Spring Football Game Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

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