As Nebraska football heads into the final week of spring practice, leading up to NU’s spring game at 2 p.m. Central on April 6, it’s time to take a look at who is rising and falling for Nebraska.
Remember, after the spring game, we’re going in to a long, dark summer of no Nebraska football. So enjoy this little trickle of football goodness leading up to the spring game, as you’ll need it to tide yourself over until this autumn.
Nebraska is well stocked at wide receiver. Returning starters Kenny Bell, Jamal Turner and Quincy Enunwa are all likely to make significant contributions. And there are a number of players waiting in the wings trying to steal time on the field, like Taariq Allen, Tyler Wullenwaber and Jordan Westerkamp. So who amongst that group of receivers is standing out?
According to the Lincoln Journal Star, it may be redshirt freshman Alonzo Moore. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck said that Moore was having a solid spring, and that he is “an electrifying player right now.” He compared Moore’s speed to Bell and has been moving him around the field in an attempt to find the receiver positions where he can best contribute.
Nebraska’s depth at I-back should be good this fall. But it’s terrible this spring. Junior Ameer Abdullah will be sitting out the spring after injuring his knee, and Nebraska is awaiting the arrival of 4-star recruits Adam Taylor and Terrell Newby this fall.
So for spring, Nebraska is left with a slimmed-down Imani Cross and redshirt freshmen King Frazier and Graham Nabity. Nebraska’s third walk-on freshman, Jordy Nelson, will miss the entirety of spring practice with a leg injury.
And that’s a huge missed opportunity for Nelson. The depth chart at I-back will likely not be as thin as it is this spring for quite some time, meaning this spring could have been Nelson’s golden opportunity to make an impression on the coaches.
With the departure of Kyler Reed and Ben Cotton, Nebraska’s depth chart has huge holes at tight end to fill. Jake Long, the only player on the roster with playing experience, looks to have a starting position nailed down. But according to the Lincoln Journal Star, offensive coordinator Tim Beck said freshman Sam Cotton has made the biggest strides this spring, praising his hands and running ability.
With incoming freshmen Cethan Carter and Greg Hart arriving this fall, spring practice will be an important time for the tight ends currently on the roster to make a mark. It sounds like Cotton is doing just that.
Steven Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star wrote a fascinating and largely-positive profile of Nebraska backup quarterback Ron Kellogg III. The column praised Kellogg’s understanding of the offense and his unselfishness in working with Taylor Martinez to help the offense as a whole grow.
So how could that make his stock fall? Well, in the column, Sipple acknowledges the realities Kellogg faces. Kellogg is a traditional pocket-passer quarterback with limited running ability. In offensive coordinator Tim Beck’s scheme, the quarterback has to be a threat to run the ball.
That means, for practical terms, Kellogg will not be able to compete for playing time against Martinez or the up-and-coming Tommy Armstrong. It doesn’t mean Kellogg isn’t an important and respected member of the team; clearly he is. But it does mean that Kellogg’s chances to see meaningful playing time, or even retain his role as second on the quarterback depth chart, are slim.
In all the hoopla about new players, it’s easy to lose track of established veterans. But all signs coming out of spring camp are that Taylor Martinez has made even more improvements in his play. According to the Omaha World-Herald, head coach Bo Pelini said Martinez “threw couple picks the first or second practice. I don’t think he’s thrown one since. He’s made some good decisions. He’s running the offense. He’s not forcing the ball.”
No interceptions. Making good decisions. Not forcing the ball. That sounds like significant progress for Martinez.
Now, it’s spring practice, and coaches usually have a lot of happy talk during spring practice. (And, given that Martinez is off-limits to hit, there’s no discussion of how well he’s avoiding fumbles). But I've made no bones about being all in on Martinez to be phenomenally successful in his senior year. If Martinez does make improvements in the areas Pelini discussed in his senior year, he could be a formidable force for Nebraska.
Putting Valentine on the “stock down” list might be a bit harsh. But according to a Scout.com article, senior defensive tackle Thad Randle said that Valentine has “got to get into better shape.” Randle also said that Valentine isn’t far off, and that “if he gets into better shape, he could be a monster. He’s got a lot of potential.”
Valentine certainly has the size for the position. At 6’3” and 320 pounds, Valentine has the frame to eat up blockers in the middle of the line and free up linebackers to make plays. Right now, Valentine is still practicing behind Aaron Curry and Kevin Williams, and will have to compete with Randle this fall when he returns from injury.
So it’s a stock down for Valentine, given that he hasn’t earned the starting position many hoped he would out of the gate. But he may become a buy-low candidate if Valentine is able to tap into that potential.
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