Saturday, April 11, 2015

Nebraska's Spring Game Shows That There's A Lot of Work Still To Do

Every year when we watch the spring game, we're always reminded that it's really just a scrimmage that's mostly meaningless. Far too often, spring game stars are just that...spring game stars. A great spring game really means nothing.

I suspect the converse is also true. At least, I hope so.  The 2015 edition of the Nebraska spring game was pretty lackluster on both sides of the ball, and frankly, that made it difficult to watch at times.  Let's start at quarterback, where everybody not named Zach Darlington had their issues.   It's pretty clear that this offense is still a work in progress, but what concerned me the most were the number of uncatchable throws.  Sure, sometimes the receiver runs the wrong route, but more than once, the ball was thrown so far out of bounds there was no way a receiver could have ever caught it. (Maybe Riley snuck one of his old CFL plays into the playbook...)

So why did Zach Darlington figure it out when seemingly nobody else really did? Sam McKewon of the World-Herald probably has the best explanation:
Of course, it also was the first real game action Darlington has seen in nearly 20 months; his senior season in high school lasted only one game after being knocked unconscious in the season opener. Some wondered if he'd ever take a snap again, but now we wonder if he might start.

Wait. Stop. It's still the spring game.  We've seen this before with guys like Brion Carnes, who ended up finishing his career as a spot starter at Northern Iowa. So let's leave it there. Baring injury, Tommy Armstrong is the starting quarterback. And despite Mike Riley and Danny Langsdorf's background, look for the offense to resemble Tim Beck's offense from last season than Oregon State's.

Why? It's because that's the team Riley inherited.  Good running backs, and quarterbacks that aren't as proficient passing than what Riley's had before.  But these quarterbacks are better runners than Riley has had, so he's adding what his players do best to his playbook.  One wrinkle that Riley added for this spring game that I don't want to see again is Armstrong being the lead blocker on the zone read.

Jamal Turner had a really nice spring game. We can only hope that he can pick up where he left off as a sophomore after missing most of the last two seasons with injuries. Of the new players, wide receiver Jariah Tolbert impressed me the most on the day.

It's clear that the defense has picked up on Mark Banker's scheme faster than the offense has picked up their's. That being said, it's not as if the defense played all that great either.

So what's the takeaway from today? Husker fans might want to temper their expectations for 2015 - at least until we see some sort of substantial progress in September.

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