Following an unceremonious end to Nebraska's first year under Scott Frost, the Cornhuskers immediately got to work with their winter strength and conditioning program. Now, it’s time to see what those gains translate to once the team comes together and operates as a functional unit.
The foundation was set for a step in the right direction during the 2018 season and spring football is where we see the frame for Frost’s vision begin to take shape. With a team more familiar with the offensive and defensive schemes — not to mention the culture Frost has been instilling — it’ll be extremely interesting to see which players make the biggest leaps.
Last spring provided us with a peek into the Husker head man’s methods. This time around, more normalized expectations will begin to be set following the 2019 Red-White Spring Game, an affair sold out for the second year in a row.
5 Storylines to Watch During Nebraska's Spring Practices
1. Martinez’s safety net
Obviously, the starting quarterback spot is Adrian Martinez’s alone. However, should the worst happen, it appears Nebraska does have a better depth chart to support offensive production in his absence. How hard he’s pushed by Noah Vedral, Matt Masker, Andrew Bunch, and true freshman Luke McCaffrey may not result in losing his place at the top of the depth chart, but solidifying options aside from Martinez are still a significant goal.
2. A running back rotation absent Maurice Washington
Considering Washington’s current legal troubles, there’s no reason to expect him to participate in spring drills. To make matters more complicated, junior college signee Dedrick Mills isn’t arriving until later. This gives players like Wyatt Mazour, Miles Jones, and Jaylin Bradley the opportunity to make their cases about why they should be a more frequent part of the offense. They need to make impressive statements now before Mills, Ronald Thompkins, Rahmir Johnson, and a potentially returning Washington get added to the mix this summer and fall.
3. Life after Morgan
While Stanley Morgan Jr. is preparing for the NFL draft, JD Spielman and Wandale Robinson look to begin getting in rhythm to replace his offensive output. We also should see players like Jaevon McQuitty, Mike Williams, and Andre Hunt attempt to separate themselves from the pack and work to make similar cases as their running back counterparts.
4. Defensive line trends
One of the biggest question marks heading into spring is how the defensive line will respond to new defensive line coach Tony Tuioti’s teachings. Carlos and Khalil Davis have opportunities to cement their roles up front while Oklahoma State graduate transfer Darrion Daniels has a chance to show his versatility. Younger brother Damian also can begin to solidify his role as a reliable backup and potentially a future starter at the nose tackle position. Towards the end of spring, having a tentative — yet somewhat confident — two-deep for the fall is a realistic goal.
5. Special teams switch-ups
With special teams coordinator Jovan Dewitt having been diagnosed with a form of throat cancer, his participation in spring practice will be limited. However, we’ll still likely see a bevy of new faces on special teams units, especially when it comes to who is returning punts and kickoffs. Barret Pickering and Issac Armstrong no doubt have their positions as Nebraska’s kicker and punter, respectively, locked down. The Huskers still need to fine-tune the mechanization of extra points, field goals and punting. This means finding proper long-snappers, holders and all of the positions that get taken for granted.
— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, FWAA member and part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow him on Twitter (@eightlaces) and enjoy the Eight Laces podcast. To contact him with tips, story ideas or for interview purposes, click here.