Three things to watch for in Nebraska's spring game
When: 1 p.m. CT
-Which Tommy Armstrong will we see?
Even in a spring game, you never know what you’re going to get from Nebraska’s signal-caller. He could throw three interceptions and look like the same quarterback who took over for Taylor Martinez as a redshirt freshman. Or he could light up the Blackshirts with his arm and his legs. Either way, his action will be limited.
Interesting, though, will be Danny Langsdorf’s usage of him. It looked like they finally found their groove in the Foster Farms Bowl when Armstrong was more of a runner than a passer. It would be surprising if the fourth-year starter was exposed to many designed runs in a spring game.
Still, there will be moments when Armstrong has to decide if he should try and make a tough throw or if he should call his own number. Those plays will be the most worth watching to gauge how much he’s turned the corner as a decision-maker.
-Patrick O’Brien’s debut
The guy many in Lincoln are hoping will be the quarterback of the future will get his first live snaps under center at Memorial Stadium. One of the leaders of the “Calibraska” movement will have a chance to show off his stellar arm. The 6-4, 230-pound signal-caller might still be buried on the depth chart, but Nebraska has never been afraid to let mature underclassmen take over at quarterback. That’s not to say that O’Brien will be competing for a starting job in his first year, but he can certainly rise up the ranks with a solid showing on Saturday.
It’s always interesting to see the way early enrollee quarterbacks adjust. Four months ago, O’Brien was playing high school ball. Understanding progressions and Langsdorf’s system isn’t easy even for experienced guys like Armstrong. O’Brien can make a solid first impression by making the right reads and not looking like he’s overwhelmed by the atmosphere.
-Nebraska’s pass defense
If there’s one thing that you don’t want to see as a Nebraska fan — besides an injury — it’s a porous pass defense. Sure, offensive execution is good to see and everybody wants touchdowns in a spring game. But Nebraska won’t have it’s two top receiving weapons (Jordan Westerkamp and De’Mornay Pierson El) because of injury. Even though the Huskers are loaded with pass-catchers, the Blackshirts still shouldn’t be carved up by the offense. The B1G West returns six of its seven starting quarterbacks, all of whom can take advantage of busted coverage or a lack of a pass rush.
Lucky for Nebraska, it has an experienced, athletic group of linebackers that could be its best in recent memory. Marcus Newby, Michael Rose-Ivey, Dedrick Young, Chris Weber and Josh Banderas make up a group that figures to look far more comfortable than they were in an injury-plagued 2015 season. For once, the Huskers have depth at the position that should make for some second-team standout efforts on Saturday.
Nebraska could be without its two starting defensive tackles for the spring game and the secondary — outside of Nate Gerry — is again a tossup. But the Huskers’ pass defense woes can be remedied greatly with some consistent linebacker play.