photo and story by Patrick Runge
Nebraska football fans have been relishing the second week of spring practice, getting a little fix of Husker football before having to settle in for a long summer. Before the Spring Game on April 11, Nebraska fans will be soaking up as much information as they can get about how the team is performing under new head coach Mike Riley, and what they can expect next season.
Here are a few stock-up, stock-down reports on what we’ve learned so far.
Stock Up: The fast guys on the team
Sure, we don’t quite know what Nebraska’s offense will look like under Riley’s tutelage. We don’t know how much of the pro-style offense Riley will import from Corvallis to Lincoln.
But based on an article by Brent Wagner of the Lincoln Journal-Star, we’ve got a pretty good idea that the deep pass will be a bigger part of Nebraska’s offensive arsenal.
“It’s going to be like a track meet,” [junior wide receiver Alonzo] Moore said last week. “Deep balls are all around. If you would have seen (Wednesday), I ran I don’t know how many go-routes — deep balls. I probably ran over 10.”
It’s looking more and more like part of Nebraska’s offense next year will involve taking shots down the field on a regular basis.
Stock Down: Tommy Armstrong
It’s been conventional wisdom that junior quarterback Tommy Armstrong had a pretty clear leg up on his competition to be Nebraska’s starting quarterback in 2015. But BTN analyst Gerry DiNardo, in the midst of BTN’s spring practice visit to Nebraska, tweeted the following:
(We can have a gentle conversation with DiNardo about whether Northwestern or Nebraska deserves the “NU” abbreviation later.)
So an outside observer, a former coach, took a look at Nebraska’s spring practice and said the quarterback decision “isn’t clear.” That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for Armstrong as a starter—or at least calls into question how close the others are to claiming the job.
Stock Up: Banker’s change in philosophy
Defensive coordinator Mark Banker is bringing a number of new things to Nebraska’s defense. The scheme will be a “quarters” base, with more emphasis on three linebackers on the field.
But more than scheme is an attitude, as can be seen from this excerpt of an article by Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald.
Take the first film session after spring’s opening practice. Linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey said his biggest mistake, on day one, wasn’t being undisciplined or forgetting a laundry list of “keys” to a given formation.
He was too deliberate. Too slow.
There will be plenty of time to digest the nuances of defensive changes Banker will make to the Blackshirts (not to mention the changes in how the physical black shirts are handed out). But the change in mindset as evidenced by Rose-Ivey’s comment—a focus on athleticism and instinct, an unleashing of potential—might be the most important change for Nebraska.
Stock Down: Daniel Davie and Charles Jackson
Both Davie and Jackson are vying for a starting cornerback position in an increasingly-competitive defensive backfield. But injuries have kept them off the field, and Steven M. Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star noted that redshirt freshman Trai Mosely had three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. That’s pressure on players like Davie and Jackson who aren’t on the field to make their claim for playing time.
Stock Up: The split-practice schedule
Riley said that he’s seen dividends being paid from his decision to split the team into two units and practice each one separately. The goal of that decision—to avoid having a number of players standing around watching during practice—seems to be reaching fruition, as Riley was describing as quoted by Rich Kaipust of the Omaha World-Herald.
“For the most part, this team’s in good shape. By dividing practice like (NU has), either teams or shotgun snaps, they’re getting a lot of reps — and they’re getting a little bit warmer weather than they’re probably used to, and they’re going for quite a while — so I think they’re in good shape.”