If it seems that the usual buzz surrounding Husker Football heading into Saturday’s Annual Red-White Spring Game seems a bit muted, that’s because you’re right. Without the drama of a near-miss in a conference championship game, hype surrounding a Blackshirt heading into the NFL draft (see: N. Suh), or the excitement/anxiety of entering or exiting a new conference, this off-season seemed pretty tame. This may not be a bad thing. Just ask Arkansas.
With the only “drama” this off-season being Carlfense taking his talents to… eh, nevermind. I hate that overused cliche and it’s not even clever, but I digress. With the only major change for the Huskers being Carl Pelini heading down to Florida to be the Head Coach at FAU there was more or less only on the field football to worry about. I don’t count Corey Raymond’s departure since he was only the secondary coach for a year and he never seemed to fit in – I mean Dennard was coaching up the DB’s towards the end of the season.
It’s actually quite refreshing to have the focus almost solely on the players and their development during this off-season and I think there will be more Spring Game attendees analyzing each play more on a technical level than the last few years. That’s exactly where I’ll start in my “What to Watch for” list:
QB Throwing Motion and Footwork: How can you not start with QB? Specifically the artist formerly known as “T-Magic”? Every year we seem him light up the world in the first few games only to come crashing down once conference play starts. Save this game, once he faces the athletic defenses of his conference brethren and the coaches have the horses to execute their “contain-Taylor’s run game” gameplan he fails miserably in the passing game and the offense sputters. Some of this can be attributed to experience but a majority of his failures can be blamed on his horrific foot(and arm?)work. Thankfully it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out as Martinez spent some time with a quarterbacks coach, Steve Calhoun in Southern California during the off-season with the main focus being balance and accuracy. So far practice reports state that Taylor has made improvement in his throwing motion and footwork but let’s see how that translates when the bullets fly. Our first peak at this supposed improvement comes this Saturday. Even if it’s just a series.
Defensive Secondary Position Shuffling: You can’t replace a guy like “Man’s Game” Fonzie Dennard, but at least Austin Cassidy is long gone. I’m liking that Bo is once again taking a more hands on approach with the secondary until new secondary coach Terry Joseph settles in and picks up Pelini’s pattern-matching system and from what I’m hearing Bo is trusting Joseph more than he did Raymond (it’s early I know).
Once Joseph does get settled in he’ll have a plethora of “hybrid” DBs to work with. It’s always good to have a few guys that can play multiple positions but you still need those cover corners with quick hips. Do we have that with our current roster of DBs? Daimion Stafford should be a punisher at SS. I know many hate on Ciante Evans after last season, but he did show flashes the year before. Either way I don’t see him being a reliable #1 or 2 CB. Andrew Green shocked me with how he progressed towards the end of last year so I would pencil him at for now at the #1 CB spot. I think PJ Smith or Courtney Osborne (is he still in Bo’s Doghouse?) will lock down the other safety spot opposite Stafford. That leaves the #2 CB spot up for grabs. This leads me to my 2nd “What to Watch for” for Saturday.
Who will stand out between the 3 converted offensive players (Braylon Heard, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, and Antonio Bell) and JUCO recruit Mohammed Seisay? Although it’s Seisay’s first year with the Huskers, I think he has the obvious edge as he’s had more college cornerback experience than the other 3. However, I always thought Heard’s defensive film was more impressive than his running back film coming out of high school so I’m really interested to see how much he’s picked up since his position switch.
Other than that I’m just hoping the weather is nice and the drug-free pledge doesn’t take too long. Sorry kids. It’s my birthday celebration weekend and I’m not even going to pretend I’m slightly interested in being drug-free the entire weekend. GO BIG RED and be sure to check out my Spring Game Diary after the game (probably posted Monday) where I’ll document my entire day Saturday.