In case you were looking for a reason to pay attention to spring practice, here are some things to watch for.
1. What happens at the RB position?
It is still crazy to think just how muddled the outlook at this position has become in such a short amount of time. Instead of an intact stable with four studs, we now have uncertainty abound. Marlon Lucky might be back, but this isn’t a sure thing. The same can also be said for Cody Glenn and a healthy Kenny Wilson is looking less and less realistic. Who then picks up the carries and how does this affect the progress of the offense?
2. A follow up – Is the surf and sand of Hawaii enough to convince Leon Jackson that he was right in choosing not to wait for his opportunity in Lincoln? I can’t blame the kid for the decision he made, but this is why patience is a virtue. It’s also why our coaches stockpile talent at the RB position.
3. Does Sam Keller live up to the hype? He’s got the talent and arm, but does he have the make-up to understand the terminology and nuances of Callahan’s WCO this quickly? The expectations could be a heavy load on Keller’s shoulders, especially with question marks in the running game.
4. Who or perhaps what is the future of the TE position? J.B. Phillips, Josh Mueller, and Hunter Teafatiller all got reps in 2006, but no one stood out. The spring was supposed to give Mike McNeill a chance to shine, but a shoulder injury will keep him out of action. Does someone step up and a make a name for himself, or will this unit continue to flounder?
5. Will the musical chairs along the offensive line continue or will the spring allow guys to get comfortable at one spot? Coach Wagner prefers, if not requires his players to be flexible and understand more than one position. Is it time to reevaluate this notion?
6. What happens when you lose all four starters along the defensive line? I’m really intrigued by this one. Add to that the loss of Barry Turner to shoulder surgery and we will see a plethora of new faces on the front four.
7. How does an extra spring impact the development of a JUCO CB recruit? Armando Murillo is already on campus and will enjoy a luxury not afforded Zack Bowman or Andre Jones. Will we see this payoff come fall or does the return of Bowman, coupled with the continued progress of Jones and Grixby make this a non-issue in 2007?
8. Is Larry Asante the next great Nebraska safety? We’ve had success with JUCO safeties in the past (Toby Wright, Kareem Moss), but the learning curve is often steep. Junior colleges often emphasize athleticism over technique. The coaching staff felt he was the best safety recruit in the country. How does that type of fanfare and a January enrollment translate to PT come fall?
9. Is Bo Ruud the best linebacker in the Big 12? Rivals.com seems to think so, and they just might be right. If it is true, the Nebraska LB corps could be pretty solid, despite the loss of Stewart Bradley. Also of note – Does Steve Octavien have more than one great game this season (see Maine 2005, Texas 2006), and how does Phillip Dillard look after returning from ACL surgery.
10. How does the coaching turnover affect the team this spring? Blake and Norvell are gone, Wyatt is slightly more entrenched and Watson sees his duties shuffled. Will the casual observer notice any changes this soon, and how might they impact the players? Perhaps more importantly will the staff be complete come spring practice or will Callahan go all Hoosiers on us?