As is the case with any spring game, the rust from the offseason makes it unreasonable to read too much into anything. This is especially true in Nebraska’s case, since the Huskers are in the process of installing new schemes on offense and defense and adjusting to a new coaching staff.
Scott Frost said he was happy with the effort he saw on the field Saturday. Obviously, there are a multitude of things to clean up and improve on. The Red Team had better players compared to the White Team, which will naturally skew the way we grade things but will also be considered.
Here’s a look at how the Huskers fared in multiple phases of the game on a scale of 1-5 stars.
Offense (3 stars)
The quarterback position has a legitimate competition that is no closer to being decided after Saturday. Tristan Gebbia, Adrian Martinez and Andrew Bunch all flashed at various points throughout the game. With the more talented Red squad, Gebbia and Martinez were efficient and demonstrated what they could do in the running game. Martinez rushed 14 times, the most attempts of anyone, for 60 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Greg Bell popped in the rushing game, providing evidence for the praise he received throughout spring ball. The offensive line, despite missing pieces, appeared improved.
With Stanley Morgan Jr. and J.D. Spielman out, Mike Williams and Jaevon McQuitty stepped up at receiver. Both caught touchdown passes. The Huskers should have depth at the position in 2018.
Early in the game, the offense teetered on confusion and took a couple of procedure penalties. That cannot happen when the season rolls around.
Defense (3 stars)
Overall, Frost said he liked the way the Huskers swarmed the ball. Newcomers Will Honas and Breon Dixon were active and weren’t afraid to make plays in the backfield. Lamar Jackson recorded an interception on a botched trick play. DaiShon Neal flashed, recording 2 sacks and providing consistent pressure.
A couple of big plays plagued the White Team and the tackling can improve as well.
Special teams (2 stars)
Caleb Lightbourn (1 punt for 55 yards) and Isaac Armstrong (45.0 average over 4 attempts) did fine in that aspect. But the kickers left much to be desired. The conditions weren’t ideal, but neither freshman Barrett Pickering nor redshirt freshman Cole Frahm did anything to offer a glimpse as to who has the upper hand in the kicking competition.
Frahm missed an extra point following the first touchdown and missed a 43-yard field goal attempt, hitting the right upright. Pickering converted all of his PATs but missed a 27-yard field goal wide right with 15 seconds left.
The coverage appeared to be solid, but there were a few times the returners offered a fair catch earlier than normal. In the spring game, though, it was probably best to err on the side of caution.
Coaching (4 stars)
Good for Frost allowing his assistants to earn valuable play-calling experience, while taking advantage of the opportunity to enjoy the sights and sounds of the day. He mixed in coaching with fun. In the spring game, that’s a proper balance, even in a spectacle as hyped as this one.
The format of the game was more than adequate. A running clock in the second half was wise, and the decision to keep it moving under the 5-minute mark showed the staff isn’t afraid to adapt on the fly for the sake of practicality.
Overall (4 stars)
No one got hurt (at least seriously), which is all you can ask for. The weather was good. For every bad play, there was a highlight to offset it.
The spring game is about the experience, and Frost leading his team out of the Memorial Stadium tunnel for the first time elicited emotion. Even Frost said the smells and sounds triggered nostalgia for him.
It’s important to remember that the spring game, at its core, is an exhibition and a glorified practice.