I started doing the Spring reviews and position previews
before the Spring game simply due to the fact that you aren't going to learn a
whole lot from that last practice which would change anything that happened in
all the practices leading up to it.
The problem is, of course, this was the only practice most
of us really got to see. And then you throw in the dynamic of having close to
70,000 people in the stands - no, it's not a real game, but for a young man who
has never played in an actual game, it might be pretty darn close.
|Martinez finished 4-of-13 for 52 yards and one interception
That's probably a big reason why redshirt freshman Brion Carnes created such a buzz with his 11-of-15 performance, two touchdowns
against no interceptions. Sophomore Ron Kellogg III didn't have a bad game
either, going 11-of-19 for 124 yards and no picks.
Green and Martinez? They combined for eight completions on
23 attempts, no touchdowns and one interception.
It should be noted that when it comes to their offensive
lines, Carnes as well as Green had one returning starter in front of them, that
being senior center Mike Caputo. Sophomore Andrew Rodriguez was also on the
White Team, but as many have noted and perhaps used as a driving force behind
some criticism, Rodriguez got precious few snaps playing behind former Husker
Keith Williams, prompting some to say that this was a redshirt that was
completely wasted. Martinez and Kellogg had Marcel Jones at right tackle as
well as Jermarcus Hardrick at left tackle. They also would have had Brent Qvale
at right guard, but he missed the final practice due to an injury which isn't
expected to keep him out very long at all.
The statistics showed the difference in experience as the Red
Team notched 11 tackles for loss, including one sack, while the White Team had four
TFLs, two of those on the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage.
So, on paper at least, Carnes and Green had a considerably
harder situation to deal with simply from having the time to execute plays.
Then there was the offense, which Head Coach Bo Pelini said
going in would be vanilla. And he wasn't kidding, as they may not have even hit
double digits when it comes to the total of different plays they had in the
playbook on the day.
Who does that favor?
Well, I'm of the mind that if you are facing a defense you
have faced all Spring, and you are actually running less of a variety of plays
in this practice versus the two major scrimmages earlier in the Spring, where
the Huskers reeled off an estimated 130 snaps per - the defense has a
significant advantage here. Where you make up for that if you are on the
offensive side, honestly just comes down to individuals making plays.
We saw plenty of those, didn't we?
Carnes had true freshman Jamal Turner who averaged over 20
yards per catch on four receptions as he notched 93 yards and a score. But the Red
Team had a couple of weapons of their own in the form of redshirt freshman Kenny Bell who showed how electric he can be in the open field (just ask cornerback
Dijon Washington who Bell left lunging for air at the line of scrimmage) as he
averaged just under 15 yards per catch on the day. Then there was the 6 foot, 8
eight inch Robert Barry, a towering sophomore tight end, who proved that as
high as he already is as a matter of just his physical size, he can still jump
up and go get the ball.
|Green finished 4-of-10 for 63 yards on the day
Carnes' one big advantage was that he had Rex Burkhead. The
junior running back was absolutely solid during his time on the field, totaling
almost a hundred yards on just 11 carries. But you had to see those yards to
appreciate them. Most were in traffic. Many came after making the first and
sometimes the second guy miss. And typical to Burkhead's style, even when
someone did get a hold of him, it almost always took another player or more to
finally get him down.
But the Red Team had their own workhorse back in redshirt
freshman Zach Taylor who proved that if you want to tackle him one-on-one,
bring a lunch. His prep highlights from his days at Lincoln Southeast are
littered with one highlight after another where it seems half the defense of
the other team is trying to bring him down, but not having a heck of a lot of
success doing it.
If that wasn't enough, senior fullback Tyler Legate actually
got to benefit from blocking rather than being one of the primary blockers as
he toted the ball six times, a third of them going for scores. From some things
Burkhead said over the course of Spring, this last practice in front of all
these fans wasn't the first time the fullback carried the ball.
But six carries for Legate?
Even by the standards set in the grand option days, six
carries is a heck of a lot of times toting the rock for a position which has
pretty much done nothing but block for the last five to six years.
And two of them went for touchdowns.
Then there are the special teams, and if you wanted to see
some plays, this is where many of them happened.
Defensive Line Coach John Papuchis said after the game that
many of the players who were on the coverage units, hadn't really practiced
doing that all that much over the Spring. So, he knew that this area had a
great chance to get real ugly at times. And then you throw in having to defend
players like Turner, Bell, Kinnie and others - yeah, potentially not a great
day for them.
The White Team's average starting field position was on
their own 41. But they started in Red territory five of 13 possessions. The Red
Team's average starting field position was their own 28-yard line, and of their
14 possessions, they started in White territory three times. Of those three
times, two came courtesy of turnovers by the White Team, while one came from a
kickoff return. The White team benefitted from one interception thrown by the
Red Team and one turnover on downs. But the rest came in the return game,
Turner notching a 50-plus yard return on both kickoffs and punts.
So, doing a bit of a rewind on all this, Carnes and Green
had the disadvantage when it came to the defense they faced.
And while they had the best running back on the field in
Burkhead, the white team only managed one touchdown coming out of their
backfield, that coming from senior Austin Jones. The Red Team got three scores
|Kellogg III finished 11-of-19 for 124 yards and no picks
But on special teams, Carnes and company had a clear
advantage when it came to starting field position. And as anyone will tell you,
where you start on the field can dictate almost everything.
The area that I think made this game a far more practical
one where players who hadn't been in actual game could compete, was the fact
that when it comes to the offense we saw on both sides for this last practice
of the Spring, wasn't anything even close to the offense we are going to see in
Now, I don't want to take away from what Carnes and Kellogg
did. They clearly had better days. Martinez was consistently throwing behind
guys while Green was struggling with accuracy as well.
But this tempo we saw in the Spring game wasn't even close
to the tempo I think most expect to see when the actual season begins. And I
would gather that it wasn't even close to the tempo the teams ran with during
the two big scrimmages prior to this last one.
When you are an experienced quarterback, even if this
offense is kind of new, which it was to all of the competing signal-callers,
you probably work at a pace that's a little faster than someone who is
completely green. And for Martinez, especially, he's always struck me as a
get-it-and-go type of guy. He doesn't waste a lot of time. He gets to the line,
calls out the protections and goes.
And again, I think it's reasonable to assume that in the big
scrimmages prior to this one, that's probably what he was able to do as well as
In this one, though, as a matter of design, the coaches
slowed the game down. They huddled, which is something that from everything we
have heard, they won't be doing a lot of during the actual season. For a player
who hasn't had actual game snaps, this is the biggest gift of all. It levels
the playing field, so to speak.
|Carnes not only had the best passing day, but the best running day for quarterbacks as he averaged over four yards per carry on his way to 49 yards rushing with a long of 24.
I don't want to paint this as the coaches orchestrating a
game, ala Bill Callahan, who proved to be the king of the window dressing campaign.
I don't think Bo Pelini would ever design any game plan around the idea of
fooling anyone or trying to make players look better than they actually were.
He's a football coach. A true blue, black and white, no
nonsense coach. He may have orchestrated its simplicity, but he certainly
didn't set the table so one quarterback would have a better chance at competing
He leaves that to the players to decide.
And at least on this day, in this "game", the two
newcomers showed that you can't just pencil in Martinez at one and Green at
number two and go on about your day. I think Carnes especially, made a
statement in this game under some circumstances which clearly favored him, but
he also had some obstacles the quarterbacks on the other team didn't have to
face, at least to that extent.
For me, taking all this into account, my depth chart really
hasn't changed, because I am pretty firm in my belief that what we saw as far
as scheme wasn't even close to what the real product is going to be. And it
certainly helped all quarterbacks when they don't have Jared Crick and Cameron Meredith on the other side making their life a living hell.
But you still have to make plays. Someone can set the table
for you, but you still have to go out there and get it done. Carnes did that in
perhaps an ideal game, but he still did it, while the incumbents in Green and
Martinez didn't look nearly as good.
Carnes may not have set himself up as a starter this Fall,
but he did enough that I don't think you can say that he's completely out of
that equation. But you can bank on the kid playing. I don't think there is any
doubt about that.
It would appear that he has more than earned it.