Nebraska Football: The 10 Best Position Battles in Spring Ball
As the Nebraska Cornhuskers continue to install a brand new offensive system and the new coaches bond with their players, the pages of the calendar are quickly flipping to April 16.
The Nebraska Spring Game brings a near sell-out audience to watch the Cornhuskers' yearly scrimmage to see who has improved, who’s plateaued and perhaps catch a glimpse of some players wearing Nebraska colors for the last time.
Which spots are still legitimately up for grabs and just who’s getting a jump on wrapping up a starting position come Nebraska’s home opener versus the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga?
The quarterback depth chart will read Taylor Martinez, Cody Green and Kody Spano/Brion Carnes.
Jamal Turner will likely see some snaps at quarterback during the Spring Game in a schemed capacity.
The names should all be familiar here.
Lavonte David’s not losing his starting spot (likely at WILL) and neither is Will Compton (100 percent MIKE).
There is some intrigue at linebacker though as Graham Stoddard pushes for playing time and Sean Fisher looks to recover from a year-long injury.
Matthew May will also likely see plenty of reps for the remainder of spring due to his knowledge of the system and game experience.
The departure of Alex Henery and Adi Kunalic has the Cornhusker special teams unit on red alert.
To make matters worse, Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star reported that that walk-on kicker Jason Dann has left the team via Twitter.
“With Dann gone, all the kicking duties belong to Brett Maher this spring. Recruit Mauro Bondi will try to challenge this fall,” Christopherson tweeted.
7: Running Backs
Rex Burkhead’s going to be taking it easy for the remainder of Spring after tweaking his hamstring, so it’s up to backs who were buried on the depth chart in 2010 to step up or sit down.
Collins Okafor gets a likely last chance to prove he belongs in a Cornhusker uniform as he works with new running backs coach Ron Brown in an effort to become a “big back” for Nebraska.
The problem for Okafor is that he will be receiving immediate competition in the form of former Alabama fullback Mike Marrow.
Austin Jones is also facing a do-or-die situation as sophomore wide receiver Ty Kildow has been seeing plenty of snaps in spring practice.
This likely means that Jones could be phased out, as Kildow possesses similar speed to that of incoming recruits Aaron Green and Ameer Abdullah.
Kildow could also very well take Jones’ spot on the 2011 depth chart as a fourth running back.
6: Defensive Ends
One of the thinnest positions on the Cornhusker roster demands experience first, and raw athleticism second.
Unfortunately, that mantra doesn’t allow for much room between statements, as Cameron Meredith looks to step in once again as the most experienced end.
Josh Williams spent last season backing up Pierre Allen and will likely take over with a new 260-pound frame.
Jason Ankrah has tremendous athletic ability, but is still rough around the edges.
Freshly-converted linebacker Eric Martin should see intermittent time.
Beyond these four, no one truly sticks out and that spells "trouble" if anyone goes down due to injury.
5: Tight Ends
The tight end corps will be led by Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed.
The former is a more traditional tight end who has excellent blocking technique and has shown the ability to separate himself from pass coverage.
Reed is a speedster and will stretch the field vertically, much as he did in 2010.
Converted running back Lester Ward moves over in an attempt to present a similar player to Reed, allowing the Cornhuskers to throw a unique combination of tight ends at Big Ten defenders.
4: Defensive Tackle
After Jared Crick sprained his MCL about a week ago, head coach Bo Pelini wasn’t about to take chances and sent Crick to take it easy.
You know what you’re getting with Crick, and his slight injury may pay dividends come the fall.
Baker Steinkuhler, Terrence Moore, Chase Rome and others will battle for minutes both beside Crick and in rotation.
Having four solid tackles in the middle of the Huskers’ front four will prove very effective against bruising Big Ten offensive linemen, especially when Crick is one of them.
3: Defensive Backs
So many defensive backs.
So little playing time.
Other schools would give good money to have the Cornhuskers’ “problem” in the secondary.
Alfonzo Dennard has a starting spot on lockdown, appropriately.
Ciante Evans looks to be the front runner for the cornerback spot opposite Dennard with several players working to secure the nickel, dime and safety positions.
Secondary coach Corey Raymond has an embarrassment of riches to work with this spring, summer and fall.
It’s likely that the competition for those starting roles will never truly end.
2: Offensive Line
The only position on the offensive line locked down is at center, where Mike Caputo lays claim to experience helping to identify blitzes and other potential problems.
Jermarcus “Yoshi” Hardrick will likely keep his spot at right tackle, but Jeremiah Sirles may have to battle a little harder to lock down his starting role.
Andrew Rodriguez and Brent Qvale appear the most probable to step in at guard, but none of this is a sure thing.
Spring camp, summer conditioning and fall practice is going to dictate who wins this battle.
1: Wide Receivers
Three words to best describe the Cornhuskers’ starting four/five wide receivers: “A complete unknown.”
Senior Brandon Kinnie is almost guaranteed to have a starting spot every Saturday, but under new wide receivers coach Rich Fisher, the other slots are up for grabs.
Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Quincy Enunwa, Kenny Bell and KC Hyland look to be excellent candidates for the positions.
It’s hard to determine just who will be deployed this spring, let alone this fall, not only due to Fisher’s teachings, but what offensive coordinator Tim Beck’s new offense dictates.
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