Yesterday marked the end of spring practice for many programs around the country. I was at Memorial Stadium covering the Nebraska spring game as 61,772 Husker fans cheered the return of their team. The word of the day was cat. Here are my takeaways from the afternoon.
1) The program has embraced fun. Bo Pelini came out for the tunnel walk rubbing a cat’s belly to keep it calm. This was a hat tip to the great @fauxpelini but they real moment came when Bo went full circle of life and held the cat up like Simba. We also had cheerleaders calling plays (they scored a TD on that drive), a throwing contest between Bo and Kenny Bell that Kenny won. A punt, pass, and kick contest with former players that featured a proposal by ex-Husker Jeremiah Sirles to his girlfriend. She said yes by the way. Pelini and company have embraced fun and I am fine with that since it shows a much different side to the Husker coach than we are used to seeing on the sidelines. That can only be positive.
2) The running backs stable is full and ready to roll. Imani Cross was the breakout offensive star of the day carrying the ball 6 times for 100 yards and 2 touchdowns. There has been talk all spring about young backs Terrell Newby and Adam Taylor possibly taking carries away from him this fall but if yesterday is any indication, he won’t go down without a fight. I haven’t even mentioned last year’s Big Ten leading rusher, Ameer Abdullah who is poised to be a darkhorse Heisman candidate. The Huskers rushing attack could end up looking very similar to Wisconsin’s last season where they had two players over 1400 yards. That would be a welcome sight to Husker Nation.
3) The QB Situation is unsettling. According to Bo Pelini, based on experience Tommy Armstrong would be the starter is the season started today. However, there is growing sentiment that Johnny Stanton is the quarterback with the highest ceiling and the best tools. I believe that feeling has grown largely because Armstrong has not taken the reigns of the position with his play even though he does look to be a leader on offense. Keep an eye on Ryker Fife who did look good throwing the ball in the game as he did all spring. The Huskers need their QB to put the team in the correct position to utilize playmakers and not turn the ball over this season. Pelini was adamant that this is still a three man race but right now it is Tommy Armstrong’s job to lose.
Other quick notes: The first team defense without Randy Gregory and leading tackler Corey Cooper forced three consecutive 3 and outs, including an interception by Nathan Gerry on the first series. The kicking game wasn’t exactly strong. Pelini said after the game that no one separated themselves and that incoming freshman Drew Brown will have every opportunity to win the job.