Nebraska has no quarterback race this spring and four of the Huskers’ top skill position players won’t suit up in Saturday’s Red-White Spring Game at Memorial Stadium, but there are still a lot of interesting areas to watch.
Here’s a guide to NU’s position groups, ranked from most intriguing this weekend to least.
1. Defensive line
Red roster: seniors Carlos Davis, Khalil Davis, Darrion Daniels, DaiShon Neal and Vaha Vainuku; junior Ben Stille; sophomores Damion Daniels and Deontre Thomas; redshirt freshman Casey Rogers.
White roster: seniors DaiShon Neal, Vaha Vainuku and Fyn Anderson; sophomores Damian Jackson, Chris Walker and Ben Lingenfelter; redshirt freshmen Casey Rogers, Colton Feist and Ryan Schommer; freshman Brant Banks.
Perhaps the most interesting group of the spring, the defensive line is a veteran group that needs a big improvement over 2018. Darrion Daniels is, literally and figuratively, smack in the middle of that equation.
The trenches aren’t always sexy, but given the interest in the grad transfer (and younger brother Damion) and also redshirt freshman center Cam Jurgens on the offensive side, keep your eyes right in the middle of the trenches.
2. Offensive line
Red: senior Christian Gaylord; juniors Brenden Jaimes, Matt Farniok, Boe Wilson and John Raridon; sophomores Trent Hixson and Matt Sichterman; redshirt freshmen Cameron Jurgens, Will Farniok and AJ Forbes.
White: seniors Gaylord and Nick Vikra; juniors Raridon and Brian Perez; sophomores Sichterman and Broc Bando; redshirt freshmen Will Farniok, Hunter Miller, Forbes and Mitchell Balenger.
The battles here are at left guard and center. Hixson has the inside track for a guard job. This will be the first extended look at Jurgens as a center. He’ll compete with Will Farniok, Miller, Forbes and perhaps others for the starting job there and all will get time on Saturday.
One note: Check out Jaimes. He’s evolved from the undersized true freshman trying to hold his own in 2017 into one of the most physically impressive players on the roster heading into his junior year.
3. Wide receivers and tight ends
Red: Receivers — seniors Mike Williams and Jaron Woodyard; junior Todd Honas; sophomores Kade Warner and Andrew Thurman; redshirt freshman Andre Hunt; freshman Jamie Nance. Tight ends — sophomores Austin Allen and Kurt Rafdal.
White: Receivers — junior Ty Chaffin; sophomores Jaevon McQuitty Brandon Robbins and Christian Banker; redshirt freshmen Justin Holm, Wyatt Liewer and Bennett Folkers. Tight ends — redshirt freshmen Katerian Legrone and Bryson Krull.
Without JD Spielman and Wan’Dale Robinson, this is a huge opportunity for young guys like Hunt and Nance. Hunt’s consistently been with the top group this spring. Woodyard could cap a nice spring in a big way, too. Tight end is pretty straightforward. Keep an eye on Legrone for the White side.
Red: sophomores Adrian Martinez and Noah Vedral; freshman Luke McCaffrey.
White: junior Andrew Bunch; redshirt freshman Matt Masker, McCaffrey.
There’s no quarterback race this year, but still plenty of intrigue. Don’t underestimate the importance of a full offseason of work for Martinez physically.
Even though Vedral would currently be considered the leader for the No. 2 job, the biggest draw on Saturday will be McCaffrey. He’s garnered rave reviews since he arrived on campus in January, and the bet here is he’ll see plenty of work, perhaps for both sides.
5. Defensive backs
Red: seniors Lamar Jackson and Eric Lee; juniors Dicaprio Bootle, Marquel Dismuke and Tony Butler; sophomores Deontai Williams, Cam Taylor and Lane McCallum.
White: seniors Avery Anderson, Jeremiah Stovall and Reid Karel; junior Eli Sullivan; sophomores Ethan Cox and Chad Alioth; redshirt freshman Isaiah Stalbird.
Williams called NU’s secondary room "hectic" because of all the competition for jobs and that’s only going to ramp up this summer when four more players arrive. Let’s see if the secondary can create some big plays this weekend.
One of the storylines to keep an eye on going forward: Assuming Williams mans one of the safety spots close to full time (a good bet, but not a stone-cold lock), can Dismuke hold off the talented young guys for the other one?
6. Outside linebackers
Red: seniors Alex Davis and Tyrin Ferguson; junior JoJo Domann; sophomore Breon Dixon; redshirt freshman Simon Otte; freshman Garrett Nelson.
White: juniors Quayshon Alexander and Pernell Jefferson; sophomore Jordan Paup; redshirt freshmen Otte and David Alston; freshman Nelson.
Of all the players who have been in the program for years, Davis is one to keep an eye on. He hasn’t been productive in extensive playing time the past two years, but the coaching staff has been heartened by his performance this spring. In a group that doesn’t have much depth, can Dixon make a run at real playing time?
It remains to be seen if Nelson can make a run at some kind of role as soon as this fall, but if you’re not feeling juiced up when you arrive at Memorial Stadium, just watch young No. 44. He’ll fix that for you very quickly.
7. Inside linebackers
Red: senior Mohamed Barry; juniors Collin Miller and Grant Jordan; redshirt freshmen Joey Johnson and Chris Cassidy.
White: juniors Spencer Jordan and Grant Jordan; redshirt freshmen Johnson, Chris Cassidy and Jake Archer.
The interest here in terms of the spring game is all about the young guys. Miller’s development — and Will Honas’ return to health from October knee surgery — will be the biggest factors that determine the group’s depth for the regular season.
This weekend, keep an eye on Johnson. He might be one of the better-positioned walk-ons on the roster at this point. Johnson, Cassidy and Archer will all probably get extensive time.
8. Running backs
Red: seniors Wyatt Mazour and Austin Hemphill; redshirt freshmen Connor Ruth and Brody Belt.
White: sophomores Jaylin Bradley and Ruth; redshirt freshmen Miles Jones and Moses Bryant.
By all accounts, Belt has done a nice job of taking a golden opportunity this spring and running with it. Heavy reinforcements arrive this summer, and Belt admitted he didn’t really know what his role will be when the regular season rolls around. But hey, the walk-on from Millard West is going to play with the No. 1s in front of 85,000-plus this weekend. That’s pretty cool.
Red: seniors Isaac Armstrong (P) and Chase Urbach (LS); sophomore Barret Pickering (PK).
White: seniors Caleb Lightbourn (P) and Jackson Walker (P); redshirt freshmen Noah McCashland (P), Cade Mueller (LS) and Cameron Pieper (LS).
The only real question among the specialists group is if Lightbourn can challenge Armstrong to get the starting job back or if the writing is already on the wall.