NU hits the pads for final time this spring

It's just one more practice before the spring game arrives, but today's practice was different from any they have had this spring. It's the tune-down as the coaches and players tune up for the annual red/white scrimmage.

To look at today's practice, it had a different feel. For the first time all spring, the quarterbacks were sporting last year's finest apparel; the infamous green jerseys.


When players don those jerseys, that means it's hands off for the defense and head coach Bill Callahan said after practice, that this would be the case during the annual Red/White game as well. "We beat them up pretty good last weekend," Callahan said of last Saturday's scrimmage. "So, I wanted to give them a week to recover."


"We saw a lot of great things from our quarterbacks in terms of competitiveness in the pocket, toughness and durability and the ability to create plays out of the pocket."


"That's an aspect that we are clearly satisfied with in terms of their contact."


The added physicality of the spring has given the team a new look this year, something Callahan admitted they didn't have, due to the lack of any real contact the season prior. "I think we are completely different than what we were a year ago, physically," he said. "I am really proud of how our guys have come out and competed on a day-to-day basis and really, our coaching staff has done a wonderful job in making this a physical football team."


The lack of physical contact is probably going to be a downside for fans, as they have heard all spring about how the team has been going back and forth with such intensity all spring. However, they will no doubt be slated as fans will probably get the best look they are going to have all year at the quarterback race that has consumed much of the headlines, leading up to the scrimmage on Saturday.


The incumbent Joe Dailey came into this off-season perhaps the favorite, but come the spring game, the rotation is going to be a lot of new faces for the fans.


Quarterback coach Jay Norvell said that Zac Taylor would be starting the game with the first unit and in the second half, Beau Davis would go with the first unit. After those two, Joe Ganz is the number three quarterback with Dailey coming in at fourth.


That would seem an almost cataclysmic slip for Dailey, but Norvell said that it wasn't because of what Dailey wasn't doing that got him to his current position, rather what everyone else had done in this short-spring session. "The other guys have improved," Norvell said of Taylor, Davis and Ganz. "We went back in this off-season and started from scratch with these guys. We taught them the principles, the reads, the footwork and we just went through every detail of this passing-game."


"The guys have performed, we have evaluated them and we think we've got guys lined up where they should be on their performance."


"I don't think Joe has slipped, I just think other guys have improved."


  Norvell did say, though, that considering the time there is until the regular season, the depth chart is still very much in flux.  


Callahan concurred. "This competition is not over," he said. "We are going to continue to compete at that spot like all spots, to make this the most competition situation that we can and carry it over into training camp."


One position that is literally wide-open, even now, is that of punt and kickoff return. Last year, true freshman Santino Panico was fielding punts for Nebraska, the Huskers ranking as one of the worst teams in the country in average yards per punt return. At kickoff return, Brandon Jackson started to shine later in the season, averaging over 21 yards per return with a long of 59.


With Panico still out, due to personal reasons and Jackson gone for at the very least the entire summer, those spots will be up for grabs. Callahan did say, however, that not all the special teams units will see "live" action this Saturday. "The punt is something that we aren't going to live with," he said. "We have a lot of candidates on the field."


"What we will do is make the kickoff and the kickoff return live in the spring game on Saturday."


The kickoff for the game is set for 12:30 P.M and part of the festivities will be the appearance of the "Scoring Explosion", Irving Fryar, Turner Gill and Mike Rozier making their way back to Lincoln for this year's scrimmage.


Also in attendance are going to be some 30 plus former Huskers that are currently in the NFL, players like Ahman Green, Mike Minter, Mike Rucker, Ralph Brown, Grant Wistrom and John Parrella all expected to attend.


Nebraska will finish off the spring practices with a much more toned-down practice that is set for 5:45 A.M. tomorrow, the team not expected to be in full pads.

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