On Saturday, Nebraska’s spring practice will conclude with the annual Red-White Spring Game. With the arrival of new head coach Matt Rhule, the Nebraska football program looks quite different and the Spring Game will be fans’ first opportunity to get a glimpse at the new regime.
So as you’re watching the Spring Game (in person or on BTN), here are some things to be looking for.
WHAT’S THE FORMAT?
Rhule has said he wants, to the greatest extent possible, the first-team offense to go against the first-team defense, to make a true test of the team. The quarterbacks will not be wearing green jerseys and will be open for full contact. The only concession to practice is that the offensive line will be wearing grey jerseys, and will be playing for both the Red and White teams.
WHAT DO THE QUARTERBACKS LOOK LIKE?
Two of the quarterbacks that saw playing time last year, Casey Thompson and Logan Smothers, are injured and will not be participating in the Spring Game. As a result, we should get a good look at Georgia Tech transfer Jeff Sims, and Nebraska native Heinrich Haarberg under center. Along with Richard Torres and Chubba Purdy (who saw action last year), we should get a good look at Nebraska’s quarterback options for the upcoming season.
WHAT IS A 3-3-5?
No, it’s not a suggestion Roy Kent would make to Ted Lasso as a formation to help AFC Richmond break a losing streak. Nebraska’s new defensive coordinator Tony White brings an unconventional defensive structure with three defensive linemen, three linebackers, and five defensive backs. On both offense and defense, Nebraska under Rhule will focus on player flexibility, working towards “positionless” football. How that would fit in to what the 3-3-5 defense would look like will be one of the things to watch.
HOW MANY TIGHT ENDS ARE ON THE FIELD?
After two years of waiting, it looks like four-star phenom tight end Thomas Fidone is finally healthy and ready to see the field. And Georgia transfer tight end Arik Gilbert is awaiting an NCAA ruling to be eligible this season. Those two four-star talents, along with returners like Nate Boerkircher, could give Nebraska a very different look offensively.
WHO ARE THOSE FAMILIAR FACES?
At the Spring Game, Nebraska will be welcoming back former head coach Frank Solich for the first time since his firing twenty years ago. Solich’s dismissal caused a huge rift in the Nebraska fan base, and in some ways is a marking point for the decline of the program. So – at least Nebraska fans hope – Solich’s return can heal that wound.
But Solich isn’t the only familiar face. Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts announced that NU would be returning to the old-school, blond-with-bib-overalls Herbie Husker. If seeing Solich on the sidelines isn’t enough to remind fans of Nebraska’s former glories, the old Herbie Husker should help as well.