Countdown to Spring: The Finale'

It's not very long now and spring practice will begin and the questions you are only mulling about in your mind right now, suddenly become relevant. The problem is, just how many questions do you think will get answered during or even after this session is done? It's never as many as you hope, but here is what you can expect to know about all of this, when it is all said and done.

First of all, forget the spring game.

Yes, I said forget it. No, that doesn't mean don't go. Point of fact, I think you should. It's the best dog and pony show this time of year and you will be guaranteed to see an offensive explosion and defensive dominance. Mostly because the number one offense never faces the number two defense. Or at least, they haven't in the last two years.

The design is obvious in that what you see will be efficient, excellent and sometimes even amazing and everyone will have that long off-season between spring and fall to think about how all of that translates to the regular season.

Ask Joe Dailey. He set a spring game record for passing yards, attempts, completions and about everything else related to throwing the ball and he promptly led the country in interceptions most of the year.

As for Zac Taylor, he had an obviously much better year, but his record-breaking performance in the spring game didn't translate all that quickly either, Taylor running for as many touchdowns as he passed for (1) until Nebraska opened conference play.

With that being said, there are some questions that are very important, which will get answered, at least to an extent this spring:

Is Matt Herian Back?

It's been a long old time since we have seen one of Nebraska's most prolific tight ends ever. It almost seems like years. Well, actually, it has been years, almost two that is, but the time for waiting is now over. The question is, just what are we going to see?
Husker fans can't wait to see Herian
out there again


Even with Justin Tomerlin's move back to tight end, Herian is the only mid to deep threat at the position Nebraska has, who understands this offense front-to-back. He's certainly had enough time to study, and from reports, he's bigger and stronger than he has ever been.

Will he still have that speed? Will he still have the kind of instincts he had in being able to get open and will he and Zac Taylor develop the kind of chemistry they need, so Herian can become the ideal tight end for this potent offense?

There's going to be some rust, as you would expect, but there's no reason we won't have a really good feel for just what Herian will do come the fall. This spring we will find out if he's back or he's still working his way back up.

If the latter is the case, players like Tomerlin and even the incoming freshman, Michael McNeil, could have a shot to catch up.

Where's the Beef?

Anyone ask that last year when it came to the offensive line? Ok, maybe if I had asked if anyone DIDN'T ask that, I might get a smaller show of hands.

This offensive line needs help.

Well, don't look now, but there are going to be a ton of players, who will have their chance this year, that either sat out last year due to redshirt, injury or they just weren't ready to play.

This year, all of them have to be ready

What you can expect to learn from this group might be as much about "who" as it will be "what". There are some guys that will miss due to injury, Kurt Mann at center being replaced by Greg Austin for now.

But look at this list of names as to people that have a shot to get a shot on the two-deep if not a staring spot:

Jordan Picou
Rodney Picou
Brock Pasteur
Jacob Hickman
Craig Roark
Victory Haines
Andy Christensen
Brett Byford
Mike Huff

Many linemen (Craig Roark pictured) will
have ample chance to prove themselves
this spring
Here's guys, all scholarship players, who we saw little of from some, but none of from most. Every single one of them has a golden opportunity to make an impact this spring.

You expect it of Christensen, who only lost his starting job because of an injury. You hope that for Haines, who will debut this spring, but the pressure really starts to build on him come fall. And you'd like to see from every other one of these players the initiative to take jobs that are obviously there for the taking.

It's not like this line was bowling people over last year, meaning there is a host of spots that are all but guaranteed to some players. I think it's safe to say, at least this spring, there isn't one single spot across the entire face of the line that won't be welcome to anyone that has the moxie to take it.

What this spring SHOULD hold for all those watching is a knock-down-drag-out fight for space at the top or on the two-deep.

It's never been this open, even when offensive line coach Dennis Wagner first arrived. This is the closest thing you will get to a free-for-all for a position.

Because it will be so hard for the newcomers in the fall to grasp even a rudimentary understanding of this offense in the three weeks they have, this group that comes out on top in the spring, could come out on top in the fall.

These should be the hottest position battles of them all.

Is Leon the man?

It's a year too late, but it's better than never as sophomore running back turned safety, now finds himself back at the position he committed to play. And because of Brandon Jackson being sidelined with yet another shoulder surgery and Marlon Lucky's status still unclear because of some minor work to his elbow, this could indeed be the chance Leon wanted from the outset.

Last year the staff had to rotate Thomas Lawson at running back and even former Husker Marque McCray got reps back there, all while still being pretty gimpy himself. With a depleted depth chart there yet again, if Leon is good to go, he could see a whole lot of reps, which might have gone to others if the situation were different.

It's his chance and I don't question how much he will embrace it or try to make it his own. I also don't see why we won't get at least a good idea of what he can physically do at the position.

It's overused, but this really is his time to shine.

Is Tyrell the man?

Here's another one that is a long time coming, but you don't have to doubt about Tyrell Spain working to make up for lost time. People still remember the talks about summer 7-on-7s and how it was Tyrell's name that kept coming up as the guy to watch.

Nathan Swift turned out to be that guy, or at least, the surprise guy in the field. Spain is looking to try and get back the luster from before.

He's got the body, the speed and he should have a decent grasp of the offense he has to run. The big question for him, can he learn everything else he doesn't know and how much of that can he apply for the spring is in the rearview mirror.

I don't know that you can say Spain is the big play guy they are looking for, because I always looked at him as a dependable guy who had the potential to make plays, rather than that kind of player, who made your hold your breath every time he touched the ball.

But at his size, with his measurables, there's little doubt how big of an impact Spain could make even as early as this time of year. And I have as much doubt that Spain will do his utmost in making that happen.

Where's Beck?

Zac Taylor has proven himself, but now Harrison Beck has to step up and show what he can do. The Kansas State proved he's got the backbone for big situations, but now he needs the actual reps to make consistency part of the package.

Oh sure, Beck got plenty of reps during practice and he got lots of time in 7-on-7s this off-season and he'll get much more this summer. But even though the actual scrimmaging is expected to be light, Beck has to be as much a part of it as Taylor himself.

In a perfect world, when the Annual Red/White game arrives, it would be Taylor vs. Beck and then Davis vs Ganz. The problem is, if the number one offense never faces the number one defense, that would leave Taylor facing a pretty easy defense, while Beck gets to face the likes of Carriker, Moore, Turner…………you get the point.

Not real fair and probably a little more painful for Beck

This is Taylor's last year, so logic dictates that Beck has to take front and center as a guy who gets the kind of reps you want your back up QB to have, so he's prepared to play. Even if that doesn't translate to the regular season, which for everyone's sake, I sincerely hope it does, Beck has to be more of a factor this spring. In his own way, even if he's not the starter, Beck has to indeed be the man.

SUUUUUUUUUHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

I've been waiting to call this kid's name outside of some of the hits he makes in practice or just how damn big he looks every time he happens to walk by. And I think you are going to be hearing it a lot
Suh could be all smiles when spring is
done.
over this particular practice session.

One big reason is that everyone had better hear his name a lot or Ola Dagunduro and Barry Cryer can expect to hear their name way too much this fall, ala what Le Kevin Smith and Titus Adams had to go through two years ago.

I don't think that's going to happen. In fact, this is the time where a player steps up or steps out. I'd be willing to bet a good chunk that this kid steps up and in a big way.

This is his time. This is the opportunity he's been waiting for. It came perhaps a year later than he wanted, but now there isn't any excuse as to why he shouldn't play. Now they need him and I for one cannot wait to see this guy take the field in the spring and in a real game.

If that's what you are going to learn, what aren't you going to learn over the spring? Unfortunately, quite a bit and in some areas, the very serious concerns are going to be that until the regular season arrives:

The secondary: Will be tested but untested the entire spring. With a definite lack of bodies, there's going to be a lot of mixing and matching, just to see what they have. But that could mean nothing once the actual season arrives.

Grixby and Bowman seem to have secured their spots for now, but at safety, it's a wild west shoot out for the top spot in spring, which could very well be meaningless in the fall. No less than four kids are coming in, all slated to play safety, so this particular part of the depth chart is about as fluid as they get.

Many linebackers like Octavien (pictured)
could still be healing this spring
The linebackers
: It's figured that everyone should be back for the spring, but in what capacity we aren't sure. First and foremost, if any of these linebackers aren't 100 percent, there isn't a Husker fan alive that should want the coaches to press them so they can play in the spring game.

The spring game is meaningless in the end, and if there is a question about any of the linebackers, who were out last season at all, being a question in the next month, nobody should be expecting to see or even hear a lot about what kind of impact they are having.

We have seen all of these guys play, albeit very, very briefly with Octavien. But it's safe to say that most people seem rather secure with the fact that this entire group could be damn scary when fall arrives.

I don't expect anything dramatic to happen with this group over the spring. I would even be surprised if we saw some of them the entire session.

When you are thinking about the anchor to what could be one of the best defenses around, it's always better safe than sorry.

I would include the spring game itself in this category of things not to glean too much from, expecting that to be the judge for what will happen this fall. Everyone should know that by now, but it never fails that some think what a team does in spring is exactly what they will do in the fall.

I am sure Alik Tillery and Robin Miller wish that were true.

But it's not

It's smoke and mirrors, a game set up for the number one offense to dominate and for the number one defense to crush whoever is in their way. It looks good on paper, but even better, it looks good to the close to 60,000 people expected to attend, including probably a hundred or so recruits.

That doesn't mean it's a bad thing, because players still have to block, the quarterback still has to throw and the receivers still have to catch. And the defenses still have to get pressure, stop the run and tackle well throughout.

So, if you watch anything, watch the execution and use that as your ultimate judge for whether it was a good spring game or it wasn't. Did guys tackle? Did guys block? Did guys catch?

Yeah, it's not sexy, but you can put up great numbers on either side, but it's the little things that make that possible. If you are so inclined to look at this game as more than just the game, look at the little things to figure out what you want to know.

Other than that, enjoy the show, because I have no doubt there will be one. Zac Taylor should be very good and with almost every receiver coming back, there should be plenty of fireworks to see. That's what this game is all about, after all. It's not really to learn anything, because the coaches learned everything they could in all the practices leading up to this game.

It's about showing everyone what they can do.

Watch it, enjoy it and even learn from it what you can. Just don't think that this is the team that will take the field in the fall. It's not. It never is. But the great thing is, you never know, the team in the fall could be better.

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