It's been a year of starts and stops for Nebraska football much like everyone else. First, spring practice was on until it wasn't. August marked the beginning of preseason preparation until it didn't. But here they are yet again preparing for an Oct. 24 opener against the Ohio State Buckeyes. There are a few notes to scribble in your margins as we pour over the goings-on in Lincoln through the next couple of weeks.
1. Snap distribution between Adrian Martinez and Luke McCaffrey
First-year offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Matt Lubick described any competition between Martinez and McCaffrey as one with an underlying goal of "making each other better." As Nebraska's coaches continue to do everything they can to get Martinez right in both mind and body, how much time they invest in helping his likely backup get in sync with the offense is worth noting.
Having McCaffrey prepared to take over in an instant becomes even more important considering the uncertainty surrounding every game this year.
2. Christan Gaylord vs. Ethan Piper
According to offensive line coach Greg Austin, fall camp begins with Gaylord backing up Bryce Benhart at right tackle. Meanwhile, Piper works to establish depth behind both center Cameron Jurgens and Matt Farniok at right guard. The underlying story is that both players could easily be shuffled around in case of an emergency.
Piper's tale thus far is a favorite one around the Cornhusker State. The in-state bruiser has a top-notch work ethic and tenacity that lends itself well to any interior spot. In the unfortunate event that Benhart would be unable to participate at right tackle forcing Farniok to slide back over, Piper appears more than ready to hold his own.
Gaylord's better suited to either tackle or guard spot having two inches of height on Piper (6-6 to 6-4). While the Huskers practice under the usual cloak of mystery, this is a competition that's sure to spill into when we start keeping track of wins and losses.
3. More four-man defensive fronts?
Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander hasn't been a stranger to mixing up his defensive fronts. Despite the mix-and-match efforts, Nebraska allowed more than 188 rushing yards and racked up just north of six tackles for a loss per game in 2019, good for national ranks of 94th and 72nd, respectively.
Two key points jump out as reasons why the official 3-4 tag Chinander's scheme claims resemble a guideline more than a hard and fast blueprint. Not only is college football now seeing shortened schedules and paused eligibility allowing teams to get creative on both sides of the ball. He also has the talent available to produce a Big Ten-caliber 4-3 look.
4. The power of unity
This year has dealt the Huskers a great deal of adversity. Several Floridian recruits opted to head closer to home including those considered potential immediate contributors. For everyone involved in the program, facing the unknown was understandably difficult. The legitimate chance of a scuttled 2020 season loomed. Pandemic life impacted the entirety of Nebraska athletics much as it has everyone else. Frost himself faced the horrific challenge of losing a father.
There will be teams brought closer together by the hardships handed to them by COVID-19 and its after-effects across the country. For a coaching staff that underscores promoting a culture of family, the value of bonds forged is invaluable. Not only when upcoming games are on the line, but for the duration of the Frost era.