LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska football is one week away from its annual spring game. While the game is historically popular among fans, this year’s event holds significance as the first spring game sellout in Huskers’ history.
While the team typically doesn’t experience a game day experience until September, this year’s spring game will be different as a sellout. For the new faces on the team — both coaches and players — the spring game will provide a unique opportunity to experience Memorial Stadium at capacity in April.
Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander is one of the new faces to have never experienced the Nebraska tunnel walk in front of a sold out crowd. As an Iowa alum, he’s been through his fair share of game days but he knows this one will be different.
“I’ll be like one of those kids that has never run out of the tunnel before and taken a meaningful rep,” Chinander said following practice Saturday.. “I’m fired up to run out of that thing and hear the crowd and see the stadium. I’m the most excited one to do it. And once it gets going, it’ll be like we normally are.”
Chinander also feels it’ll be a good learning opportunity for the players.
“I think it’s important for the guys that haven’t played, the guys that have never played a game as a Husker,” Chinander said. “Some of these guys it’s going to be old hat and they’re going to feel that feel again, they’re going to smell those smells, and they’re going to hear that sound when they run out of the tunnel and the switch is going to be flipped. Some of these guys have never been out of the tunnel in a real situation where they’re going to play meaningful reps, so I think it’s going to be a big learning experience for those guys.”
While coach Scott Frost is sorting out the format of the spring game, Chinander knows he’s not going to try to trick the offense. He could, but that’s not the point of the spring game for him and the defense.
“We could go out there and throw out all kinds of crazy stuff like blitz packages but I don’t want to trick the offense,” Chinander said. “I want to get lined up, I want to see who knows their technique, I want to see who knows their call, who can get off their block, I want to see who can tackle, period. That’s what we’re trying to get done. People want to see touchdowns anyway. I don’t want to see touchdowns but that’s not the point for me in the spring game.
“The point for me is getting a fair evaluation in a game like that and atmosphere and see who can play with who and who can actually do it.”
At the end of the day though, the spring game is also about having fun. He wants the players to enjoy the day, especially those that are new to the team.
Chinander also sees the spring game as an opportunity to clean the slate for the Huskers. After a 4-8 season in 2017, Nebraska needs a fresh start. Chinander sees April 21 as the day that truly begins.
“I think any time you get to run out of that tunnel and see the awesome fans we have and play in front of 91,000-plus people and hear the crowd, that’s cool,” Chinander said. “I think they’re ready for that and ready to start fresh in front of the crowd and start fresh with it being on Big Ten Network.
“I think they’re ready to get out there and go.”