March 8, 2014

Five storylines to watch this spring

Nebraska will officially kick off spring drills on Saturday, and as the Huskers get ready to start year seven under head coach Bo Pelini there are several things to watch.

Here are HuskerOnline.com's five biggest storylines heading into spring practice.

A quarterback battle

It's hard to know just what kind of battle Nebraska will have at quarterback this spring, but what we know right now is sophomore Tommy Armstrong will go into practice with a leg up. Armstrong was 7-1 as a starter in 2013, but redshirt freshman Johnny Stanton, sophomore Ryker Fyfe and true freshman Zack Darlington all hope to make a push.

It's way too early to know what somebody like Stanton brings to the table. That's what you try to find out during the spring.

Who's after Abdullah at RB?

There obviously is not a battle for the starting running back job this spring, as senior Ameer Abdullah returns as the Big Ten's leading rusher from a year ago.

However, the real battle will be for the No. 2 job behind him. Junior Imani Cross enters with an early leg up, but sophomore Terrell Newby and redshirt freshman Adam Taylor both should make a strong run for the job. Taylor particularly has drawn rave off-season reviews and has a chance to emerge as a future star with a strong showing this spring.

Special teams changes

We know Nebraska plans to make some special teams changes this spring in the punt return game, but what kind of changes?

NU's 2013 punt return unit put the offense in several field position holes that were nearly impossible to get out of. The biggest issue from the naked eye was the lack of blocking in the return game, along with just not having an explosive threat to return punts. The 10 to 20 yards the Husker lost by either not fielding punts or trying to return a punt without any blocking put quarterbacks like Armstrong in near impossible field position situations.

Depth not a problem on defense

A year ago Nebraska was trying break in the youngest defensive front seven in school history. More first and second year players made up the Huskers 2013 defense than ever before. There were no doubt some growing pains, but now it should pay off.

The Huskers survived 2013 without their All-Big Ten quarterback, All-American offensive lineman and a defense primarily made up of 18 and 19 year olds. That defense grew each week, and by season's end they were carrying this football team at times.

This group should continue to grow and arguably be one of the stronger units in the Big Ten.

Another new look in the secondary

For players like senior corner Josh Mitchell they will be working with their fourth secondary coach in five years. Charlton Warren will kick things off this spring with a good mix of youth and experience in Nebraska's secondary.

What will Warren bring to the table compared to how Terry Joseph ran things the last two years? The cornerback position remains wide open this spring and there should be some great battles at safety. How will Warren bring this group along through 15 practices?



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