Nebraska Football: What to Watch for at the Spring Game

Kyle SurfaceCorrespondent IApril 11, 2012

Nebraska Football: What to Watch for at the Spring Game

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    The Nebraska spring game normally serves three purposes.  It is an extra practice for coaches and players, a chance for fans to see possible directions the team might be heading in and, most importantly, an excuse to tailgate in April. 

    The 2012 spring game marks the beginning of a season that will determine whether Tom Osborne spends the money to ensure that Bo Pelini stays as the captain of Nebraska’s football program long term, or whether it is time to start lowering the life boats.

    Is Pelini a CEO capable of making the tough decisions needed to take Nebraska back to the promised land, or is he just a really great defensive coordinator?

    Bo’s fate rests in the hands of Rex Burkhead, Taylor Martinez and John Papuchis. 

    Here is what Husker fans need to be on the lookout for during the Red-White game.

Rex Burkhead

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    If my girlfriend cheated on me with Rex Burkhead, it would make me love her more.  

    In 2011, Rex Burkhead ran for 1,357 yards behind a line that couldn't block their way out of a wet paper sack.  Burkhead was the lone bright spot on a Husker team filled with disappointments. 

    For Nebraska to have a successful 2012 season, Rex Burkhead needs to be the workhorse that Husker fans have come to know and love.  And for that reason, the only football I want to see Burkhead touch on Saturday is the one he signs for little kids.

    When I go to bed at night, I pray for my family, my friends and that Rex Burkhead has 22 sons who grow up bleeding Husker Red. 

Taylor Martinez

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    Fair or not, there are few things in the world more scrutinized than playing quarterback for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. 

    Unfortunately for Martinez, he showed so many flashes of brilliance in his freshman season that there is no way Husker fans could look at his 2011 season as anything but a step backwards.  He had the same arm, without the flashes.

    There are only three things that I am going to be looking for from the quarterback position on Saturday. 

    First, has Martinez made all the improvements in his footwork and throwing motion that sports writers have been drooling over all offseason?

    Second, if Martinez hasn’t made those improvements, does Nebraska even have a quarterback who could step up and create enough of an outside threat to get eight guys out of the box so Burkhead has running lanes? 

    Finally, if it looks like there is a better option at quarterback, is Pelini going to be willing to make a change, or has he hitched his wagon to Martinez whether that dog will hunt or not?

John Papuchis

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    Rumors are rumors.  Whether or not there were extenuating circumstances among the defensive coaching staff that led to a disappointing defensive effort in 2011 doesn’t matter. 

    What does matter is that outside of Lavonte David, the Nebraska defense looked like garbage more times than not.

    Nebraska has a new secondary coach in Terry Joseph.  From what I have read, the guy has fire.  The question is, will that translate to the field?  Nebraska ranked 75th in interceptions last year.  It better.

    Overall, Nebraska ranked 36th in total defense in 2011, right behind Eastern Michigan.  That simply isn’t good enough.  Many people, myself included, thought that Nebraska needed to make a splash with a big-name defensive coordinator to bring in some big-time recruits. 

    Bo Pelini elected to stay in-house and give John Papuchis his shot.  I hope Pelini was right, because the biggest names on the Cornhusker defense during the Pelini regime have been Callahan recruits.    

Friends, Fun and Nebraska Football

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    Do Nebraska fans read too much into one spring game?  Probably.  But there are definitely little things you can pick up on in April that will give you a pretty good idea of what to expect come September. 

    At the end of the day, I am going to spend Saturday with great friends, watching the Huskers in April and hopefully enjoying great weather.

    Where the corn fields meet the sky, we'll be tailgating.