The Nebraska Football spring game is a wrap and man, it sure was a beautiful thing. It’s been awhile since there has been this much hype over a Nebraska Football team. Everybody else must have felt the same way as the Huskers played a spring football game in front of nearly 79,000 fans and a plethora of top high school recruits.
You may argue that a game hosted in the spring is not of much importance but to Nebraska, it meant everything. Even though we didn’t see the whole playbook on both sides of the ball, we got to see some talented players battle for a starting position.
Here is a review of some of the key position battles that took place on Saturday and what it means going forwards.
It wasn’t a secret that most of the anticipation on Saturday was going to be from the quarterback position. What we didn’t know was which quarterback would start with the first-team. The decision was made on a locker room coin flip in which red shirt freshman, Patrick O’Brien , was on the winning side of. O’Brien was accurate early and utilized the check down target quite a bit in his first series. It was clear that O’Brien’s favorite target was senior tight end, Tyler Hoppes, who finished the game with four receptions for 66 yards.
O’Brien finished with one touchdown pass but had plenty of more opportunities in the red zone that weren’t converted. The second year quarterback finished the day completing 11 of 17 passes for 134 yards and one touchdown.
His counterpart, Tanner Lee, was nothing less than extraordinary on Saturday. Lee led the first-team squad down the field for points on every drive. The play of the day was made when Lee squeezed a ball into a tight window in the corner of the end zone for receiver, JD Spielman. The Tulane transfer showed composure and maturity throughout the day. Lee finished the day completing 13 of 17 passes for 190 yards and three touchdowns.
Though his name hasn’t been in the quarterback competition this spring, true freshman Tristan Gebbia had a breakout day. You never know how a freshman is going to perform in his first appearance but Gebbia played like he had been in the system for years. Out of the three quarterbacks, Gebbia received the most playing time. The California product started with the second-team offense and orchestrated some great drives. In fact, head coach Mike Riley was so impressed that he gave him a shot to play with some of the first-team playmakers. Gebbia finished his day by completing 28 of 45 attempts with one touchdown on the ground.
With so much talk being about the starting quarterback, many people have forgotten about the duel going on at the running back position. At the beginning of the day, there were three backs that were fighting for playing time in Tre Bryant, Devine Ozigbo, and Mikale Wilbon. After the game, there may be four.
The back that stole the show was a sophomore by the name of Wyatt Mazour. The Albion, Nebraska product reminded Nebraska fans on Saturday of a NFL player by the name of Danny Woodhead. Mazour didn’t show his rushing ability right away but he did lead the second-team offense with 78 receiving yards on just four receptions. Again, Riley was impressed and brought the sophomore over to get first-team repetitions. Mazour didn’t disappoint. He rushed for 57 yards on just four carries with his first score coming towards the end of the day.
Even with Mazour stealing the spotlight, the other backs had nice days as well. Sophomore back, Tre Bryant, saw minimal action with just three carries for 39 yards. Junior back, Devine Ozigbo, saw some good action by carrying the rock seven times for 49 yards and a score towards the end of the day. Junior back, Mikale Wilbon, combined for 45 all-purpose yards and finished his day with one touchdown.
By the repetitions on Saturday, it looks like Tre Bryant will be the guy to beat for a starting spot. I like all four of the guys because they provide a different element to the system. It will be interesting to see how Riley will implement them come the fall.
Other than Wyatt Mazour, there were a few new faces that caught some balls on Saturday. A guy that came into the spotlight during the spring is a guy by the name of JD Spielman. It’s clear that Spielman has gained chemistry with each of the quarterbacks as he finished the day with four receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown.
Another new face was a guy by the name of Keyan Williams. The junior is the son of receivers coach, Keith Williams. He also had himself a day. Williams finished the day with six receptions for 68 yards.
Veteran receivers Stanley Morgan and Demornay Pierson-El didn’t see much action during the day. It’s safe to say that the coaches were looking for third and fourth options at the receiver position for the fall.
It was hard to get a good read on the new style defense for the Huskers as they didn’t incorporate much of the system on Saturday. One thing that was learned was that new defensive coordinator, Bob Diaco, has a high motor on the sideline.
There were a few names on both first-team and second-team defense that had nice days. Tony Butler and Marquel Dismuke had quality days for the second team by providing seven and six tackles respectively from the defensive back position.
New freshman enrollee, Avery Roberts, was a name you also heard a lot. Roberts played both first-team and second-defense in which he combined for 10 total tackles for the day. Another name that was heating up during the spring was sophomore defensive back, Eric Lee Jr. The Colorado product made his debut apart of the first-team defense and finished his day with six tackles.
Altogether, the spring game was a big success. The Nebraska Football team was well prepared and put on a show for a rocking crowd at Memorial Stadium. You can infer that whoever is behind center this season is going to be very accurate. Something Nebraska fans haven’t seen for quite some time. The depth is deep for this team and it’s going to be up to the coaching staff to evaluate the film in order to put the team in the best position to win.