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 from their
|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 the Fall.
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 Green.
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 than another.
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.