Friday, April 5, 2013
Spring game preview: Nebraska
By Brian Bennett
The first Big Ten spring game of the year kicks off tomorrow when Nebraska holds its annual fan-friendly showcase. We're going to preview each of the league spring games as they approach, so let's take a look at what to expect from the Huskers this weekend:
When: Saturday, 3 p.m. ET
Where: Memorial Stadium
Admission: $10. More than 40,000 tickets have already been sold. Public parking is available for $5 in Lot 9 and at Haymarket Park.
TV: Live on Big Ten Network
Weather forecast: Partly cloudy, with a high of 70 degrees.
What to watch for: After bad weather forced the cancellation of last year's spring game, Big Red Nation has to be thrilled with the forecast for Saturday. It should be a great afternoon, and it will be the first chance to really see the new-look Huskers defense.
Head coach Bo Pelini said the team is a little thin right now because of injuries after a more physical than normal spring. Quarterback Taylor Martinez will only play a few series at most, while guys like running back Ameer Abdullah and linebacker David Santos are out. Still, Pelini plans to split up into two games and play a game, though some guys might play on both teams and there is likely to be a running clock in the second half.
Like all spring games, it will be basic and a not a great tool for serious evaluation. But because none of Nebraska's practices have been open to the media beyond some short viewing windows, many people are anxious to see how the defense -- which is replacing eight or nine starters, depending on how you count it -- looks in a game-like setting. Of particular interest is the front seven, where only one starter (Jason Ankrah) is back, and the safeties. Pelini didn't like the way his defense performed in a scrimmage before spring break but said that side of the ball "made a big jump" during the final week of practice.
This won't be the best way to judge those young players on defense, especially not against a watered-down offense missing two of its best players. But they are reputed to be faster and more athletic than their predecessors, and that should be evident from the way they run around on Saturday.
Offensively, backup quarterbacks like Tommy Armstrong will get a chance to shine, and Imani Cross will show off his slimmed down frame as he receives the first-team carries. Mostly, after being robbed of the chance last spring, Nebraska fans are just happy for the chance to see their beloved team on the field.