Well, that wasn't exactly what I expected today. The weather forecast called for an 80% chance of rain all day, and the defense seemed to be stacked to favor the white squad. So what did we get? The rain drops stopped falling as we drove to Lincoln, and when we got to the stadium, the sun burst through. As it turned out, a beautiful day for football.
There are three reasons to attend the spring football game: getting kids introduced to the Huskers, check out a few key matchups to see development, and watch for any young players that catch your eye. Today looked like a success on the first and last items; sadly, I didn't see the matchups progress the way I had hoped. That's probably because I was looking for too much.
One matchup I focused on early was Ndamakong Suh against the Husker offensive line. Well, while Suh was in there, it was Suh in command. After that, it was tough to track everything as players wore practice jerseys with no names and sometimes folded up into their pads, making numbers illegible. In the first quarter, I sent my nephew to buy a roster as I was really struggling tracking who was who out there.
Here's the good for the day:
LaTravis Washington: This kid has only been through 14 practices at quarterback? He was poised, he was on-target most of the day. I really would have liked to be able to see him without the green jersey, but that wasn't realistic due to the depth issue at quarterback. He's got a howlitzer for an arm, but it was on target. He threaded the needle throughout the day.
Chris Brooks: He teamed up with Washington for several nifty catches.
Lester Ward: The redshirt freshman I-back showed good vision and elusiveness in traffic, then the power to get yards after contact.
Cody Green: For a kid who probably should be focused on his high school prom today, he looked all right as a quarterback. He showed good poise as the game went on.
Ben Cotton & Kyler Reed: Solid introductions for both tight ends today. Cotton showed good hands on his touchdown catch, and Reed outran everybody else on the field on his 71 yard touchdown reception.
Tim Marlowe: If you stayed to the end, you got a treat watching him weave through traffic for a 38 yard punt return.
Will Compton: The linebackers didn't have a great day overall, but Compton caught my eye a couple of time.
Marcus Mendoza: The development of the young I-backs like Austin Jones and Lester Ward allowed Mendoza to move to wide receiver. That move looks solid right now. If this works out the way I think it will, I'll be shaking my head and wonder what Marlon Lucky could have done as a wide receiver.
Other players who caught my eye at times: Micah Kreikemeier, Thomas Grove, Austin Jones, and P.J. Smith.
Granted, part of the reason the quarterbacks looked so good was that they kept things pretty simple for the most part. Lots of short, underneath stuff against base defenses. That's a good thing for a day like today, where the goal was to let them shine and build confidence. The linebackers, however, will be paying for this one, though that was to be understood with the rebuilding project currently underway at that position. It was sad to see Phillip Dillard finally get into the game in the second half. Hopefully, he'll work this summer to address whatever deficencies he's developed in the last six months.
In the end, nobody seemed to get hurt, and we generally saw more positive performances than negative performances today. It was nice seeing the clock stop in the second half, giving the youngsters more snaps to show their stuff and develop further. It was also nice to see live punt returns, though the number of flags might make you question that. Plenty of reason to be optimistic about Husker football right now. Steve Sipple of the Journal-Star even says "Top 25"; we'll see about that. I'm less concerned about where they start the season in the ratings as with where they end up.