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What We Learned From the Spring Game

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The Red team beat the White team 32-25 on Saturday. So the good news is Nebraska is still undefeated in Spring Games. That has to be an NCAA record right? Needless to say the Huskers had some question marks going into Spring Camp, and after Saturday it doesn’t look like those questions have been answered yet. But there are some young guys who surprised Husker Nation.

Wide Receiving Core Just Got Better 

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Nebraska has arguably the best Wide Receiver group in the country. On Saturday two young guys showed they are as good as advertised. Redshirt Freshen Alonzo Moore and Jordan Westerkamp have earned high praise in practice. Westerkamp was touted for not dropping a single pass during last Fall Camp. He continued this trend on Saturday. He looks like he is going to be a sure handed target for the next four years.

Alonzo Moore was recruited as a 4 star athlete. Nebraska fans got a glimpse of just how much of an athlete he is on Saturday. There was question if he would play defensive back or wide receiver in College, and the coaches made the right choice by putting him in a spot where he can have the ball in his hands. The 6-foot-2, 170 lb. Louisiana native had battled a hamstring injury all Spring camp, and was considered to be questionable for the Spring Game. He caught two passes for 57 yards, and a touchdown. Nothing was more impressive than his first catch where he broke 3 tackles for a score.

Running Backs By Committee

One of the biggest stories of the off season was the departure of running back Braylon Heard. The talented Junior-to-be decided to take his talents to the

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SEC. Which left fellow Junior Ameer Abdullah as the only truly proven running back on the roster. After being dinged up in camp, the coaching staff decided to sit Abdullah and give some younger guys some reps on Saturday. The underclassmen  didn’t disappoint. The only other back with any amount of actual game playing time was sophomore-to-be Imani Cross. He was explosive and looked much faster then he did last season during Saturday’s scrimmage. The thing that was most noticeable about the 6-foot-2, 220 lb. I-back on his 7 runs for 55 yards and 1 touchdown, was his decisive cutting. At times last year Cross wasn’t too quick to just pick a hole and run through it. On Saturday his vision was good, and he was hitting the hole a lot faster.

Two young guys that opened a lot of eyes were walk ons King Frazier and Graham Nabity. Frazier, a Missouri native, had several offers from Midwest schools. He decided to pass on those offers and come to Nebraska. Fans got a glimpse of why so many schools offered him a scholarship. His first play he broke a tackle in the backfield and gained 18 yards. He made several players miss on Saturday with his shiftiness, and ability to cut on a dime.

It seemed like every time someone hit the hole hard and made a 5 yard run look like a 30-yard explosion, the announcer came over the PA system and said, “Graham Nabity on the carry.” Nabity will be a redshirt freshman this year, out of Elkhorn. He will have a hill to climb to get on the depth chart with the backs in front of him, and the young guys coming in this the fall. With the body of work he put in on Saturday, the coaches have noticed him a long with 63,000 in Memorial Stadium.

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Obviously the star of the day was number 22. No, not Rex Burkhead. Seven-year old Jack Hoffman. The young brain cancer patient from Atkins, Neb. has become a local celebrity with the “Team Jack” shirts, that he has helped publicize for Cancer research. He lived the dream of every young boy from Nebraska on Saturday. Late in the 3rd quarter No. 22 trotted on the field in full Husker uniform. Hoffman wore No. 22 in honor of his favorite Nebraska player, graduated senior Rex Burkhead. Senior quarterback Taylor Martinez took the snap and gave the ball to the 7 year old, who must not have heard Martinez audible because he originally started the play to the left. With a little redirection from the veteran quarterback, the up and coming running back darted back to the right, and broke of a 69-yard, untouched run.

Nebraska did a lot of things that we have never seen before at Spring Game in Lincoln. They took time out of the game  to show the crowd, and a live T.V. audience drills. They did a lot of fun competitions with former, and current players. That is all fun and great, but nothing will stick in a Husker fans memory more than that 69-yard run by a seven year old that has been through so much. Anyone that has followed Jack’s story, felt like a proud parent on Saturday. That was  the most unselfish thing I have seen a coach, a university, or a sports team in general do. My hat is off to Bo Pelini, his staff, and those players for making this possible.

Hey coach, is it to early to get him a scholarship?

The Quarterbacks Put On A Clinic 

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The buzz going into Saturday’s Red and White Game was “What will redshirt freshman quarterback Tommy Armstrong look like on Saturday?” He along with senior quarterback Ron Kellogg III did not disappoint the crowd. Kellogg did throw an interception on his 2nd pass, but after that he completed his last 11 passes.

Armstrong had two fumbles on the day, but his arm is what amazed the crowd. He finished the day 5 of 7 with 10 carries for 26 yards. The 2nd fumble hurt his rushing stats because it went for -13 yards. Armstrong did run tough and has impressive speed.

After the game head coach Bo Pelini said that at the end of Spring Armstrong is a little ahead of Kellogg for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart. The top spot will obviously be senior Taylor Martinez’s until this season over, or if he gets injured. Offensive coordinator  Tim Beck  said he was very pleased with his freshman quarterback even though he made mistakes, because he made them hard and fast.

Between Armstrong, Martinez and Kellogg the quarterbacks finished 30-44 (68%) for 409 yards, and 3 touchdowns.

Tight Ends Step Up Big 

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With the loss of graduating seniors Kyleer Reed, and Ben Cotton there were questions about who would step up to fill there shoes. After Saturday I think the question has become, “Who do you want to do it?” Clearly the guys on this roster can all play. Redshirt senior Jake Long was the first to impress. On the first drive of the game he hauled in a 45-yard catch. At this point it looks like Long will be the first option at tight end come Fall.

Sophomore David Sutton grabbed a 17-yard touchdown pass while diving in the end zone. Two words to describe Sutton would be, “football player.” After his catch I started watching him every time he touched the field. He is a very solid run blocker and plays with a bit of mean streak. He is one guy to watch closely during Fall Camp.

Redshirt freshman Jared Blum finished the day with three catches for 32 yards. Sam Cotton also grabbed three balls for 19 yards. One guy who stood out before the game just running around on the field was No. 42. Trey Foster.  He looked very athletic and moved really well. He grabbed  one pass for just four yards, but looks very coachable, and could make some waves in the Fall.

The Young Defense is Just That 

This may be the most athletic defense that we have seen under Bo Pelini. The good news is the Quarterbacks went  30-44, for 409 yards, and 3 touchdowns. The bad news is the quarterbacks went  30-44, for 409 yards, and 3 touchdowns. The defensive line didn’t really create to much pressure and the secondary looked confused, and out of place at times.

The two really bright spots of the defense were redshirt freshman linebacker Jared Afalava, and redshirt sophomore safety Harvey Jackson. Both names were called several times for tackles on Saturday. At times it looked like Jackson was beating linebackers to the hole. Both had promising Springs and will look to make in impact this Fall.

The one thing that stood out to me during the times where the team would take a break to do a demonstration of their drills for the crowd, was how tough Ziare Anderson is. We all know how tough we thought he was, when he played an entire game with a torn ACL last season. On Saturday when Nebraska did their “Competition” drill, Anderson threw a grown man aside, juked another guy and made a tackle in the drill. He will be the unquestionable leader of the defense this fall, and will be impressive to watch if he can stay healthy.

The biggest question mark going into the fall is the defensive line. There really weren’t any questions answered on Saturday. With that being said it was just a practice, and the scheme was probably very Vanilla. They are also a group of under classmen going up against season veterans on the offense. It’s 136 days till the first game of the season. This staff has plenty of time to get this very talented defensive line on the same page.

The one thing that defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski did say about his group, he was disappointed because it didn’t look like his guys were flying to the ball like they have shown. He said he didn’t care if they got lined up right, he wanted to see some guys make some plays, and he felt like he didn’t see that.

Kicker U? 

When former All-American kicker Alex Henry graduated and left for the NFL, the question was who could fill his shoes? Insert new All-American kicker Brett Maher. Now the question is who will fill his shoes? Husker fans got a first hand look at Mauro Bondi on Saturday. The Florida native drilled a 50 yard kick in the fist quarter, and all questions seemed to be answered.  The redshirt sophomore will probably have some hiccups in his first season as Nebraska’s place kicker, but he looks like he is following in his predecessors footsteps.

By Jimmie Allen

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Tags: Big 10 Bo Pelini Jack Hoffman Nebraska Cornhuskers Red And White Game Taylor Martinez

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