Like autumn must follow the summer, Nebraska football fans know that with positives come negatives. We went over the big-picture positives from NU’s Red-White spring game previously. Now it’s time to flip the coin and see what went wrong and what work Nebraska has left to do after the conclusion of spring practice.
Before we start, though, I’ll give you the same caveat I have for every other spring game analysis. The spring game is only one practice at the end of the entire spring program. Additionally, even more than previous years, it appears that the coaches re-focused the Red-White game as an exhibition for the fans instead of an evaluative tool for this fall.
So whatever we saw at the Red-White game should be taken with a massive grain of salt. But it’s all we have to go on, so we work with the data we have. Just keep it in perspective and don’t freak out.
Defensive Tackle Is a Big Question Mark
Sure, there are lots of questions to be asked of the Blackshirts this year. But if you really wanted to pinpoint a problem area, the interior of the defensive line is a good place to start. At no point in the Red-White game did you see dominance from the interior defensive linemen. Quarterbacks were kept upright and given plenty of time to pick their throws unmolested by a pass rush, unless the opposing defense brought extra pressure.
Sound familiar at all?
Yes, guys like Vincent Valentine didn’t play, and yes, freshmen like Maliek Collins and Kevin Maurice aren’t on campus yet. But defensive tackle is usually a difficult position to succeed right away. Not only does a lineman’s physical strength need to be enough to hold up against a B1G offensive line, but the lineman has to be able to understand and diagnose the opposing offense.
So it’s hard to think that the cavalry is coming to save Nebraska’s defensive line.
No Explosive Defensive Playmakers Were Seen
Nebraska is replacing its entire starting linebacker corps, and will be making huge changes in the secondary. Judging the defensive performance as a unit may be a little unfair, because many of the combinations on defense are ones that wouldn’t ever be used in a game setting.
But we can look at individual performances and see if there was anything that stood out. And, from a defensive standpoint, it’s hard to think of one.
Auburn transfer cornerback Jonathan Rose seemed to keep up, but didn’t look like a shutdown corner. Linebacker Thomas Brown did look like he could get into an opposing backfield, but also appeared to run himself out of plays. Safety Corey Cooper struggled with pursuit angles and making plays on a ball in flight in coverage.
Again, the lack of individual defensive standouts may have something to do with a lack of defensive cohesion that will come later in the season. But the lack of individual stand-out performances from the defense should be enough to at least worry the Children of the Corn.
What You See in April Isn’t What You’ll See In September
So, what's the biggest negative coming out of Nebraska's spring game?
In some ways, I suppose, this could be a good thing as well as a bad thing. But Nebraska’s Red-White roster was missing a whole host of players that will likely see significant playing time this fall. Ameer Abdullah, David Santos, Andrew Green, Ryne Reeves and Vincent Valentine were just a few names of players who will likely be big contributors this fall who did not participate in the spring game.
And new arrivals like Randy Gregory, Matt Finnin, Terrell Newby, Adam Taylor, Josh Banderas and Marcus Newby are all players who should get playing time next season but were not involved with spring practice.
That’s nothing unexpected, of course. But it does mean that those players and their teammates will not get the benefit of the big spring practice in front of 60,000 people to help build chemistry and cohesion.
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