Nebraska is set to play a full 60 minutes on Saturday for its Red-White Spring Game, but the format is going to look different from a normal contest in several ways.
Most notable: The first half will not include any live tackling, but the second half will.
Coach Scott Frost on Wednesday indicated that’s essentially the compromise the staff reached after batting around several ideas, including holding several veteran players out or to very limited roles altogether.
“We’re going to have a full game with two teams, first half is going to be 'thud' and we’re going to let a lot of the old guys play,” Frost said. “Second half, we’re going to leave a lot of the young guys out there and the second half is going to be live and tackle to the ground. That’s kind of the format we landed on.
“It’s going to give us a chance to get more work out of our veterans and then gets some live reps for our young guys.”
Nebraska is being cautious in how it approaches the final of 15 spring practices because Frost said his team overall is "beat up" at the end of a long, taxing five-week stretch.
“We’ve had a physical spring. We needed it,” Frost said. “We haven’t had a real spring ball in two years. We needed to make up for some lost ground, so we’ve had a physical spring. I’ve asked a lot of the guys and they’ve given it to us.
“We’ve had a couple times up to 43 guys on our injury list with everything from a couple big ones to tweaks and sprains and bumps and bruises. We’re a little beat up, but we expected that with the type of spring that we’ve had.”
That eye-popping number would represent 31.3% of Nebraska’s 137-man spring roster. Still, the coaching staff wanted to give some of the veteran players a chance to get out and get some work in front of a crowd that is expected to be more than 30,000 at Memorial Stadium.
“I imagine most of the veterans will play the first half now that it’s not tackle,” Frost said. “It’s going to be practice tempo and we’ll trust the referees to blow it down at their discretion. That’s going to give us an opportunity to let some of the veterans play a little bit more.”
Fans are always excited to see how players look, but it isn’t a particularly useful day from an evaluation standpoint for the coaching staff. Or at least no more so than any other day.
“About the same as every other practice, maybe less. This is kind of a showcase,” Frost said. “The only thing we’re really looking to see is how they perform when the lights are on a little bit. But we have hundreds and hundreds of reps of practice that we can evaluate and a lot of those veteran guys are going to get 30-50 reps in the first half of Saturday’s game, so that’s a small portion of what the work they’ve put in this spring. It’s important, but it’s no more important than any other practice that we’ve had.”
Another difference: Coordinators Matt Lubick (offense) and Erik Chinander (defense) are going to call plays for both teams from the coaches’ boxes high above the field. In years’ past, Frost has spread around the play-calling duties for the spring game.
“Then just to help the coaches out, we’re going to put both offenses on one sideline and both defenses on the other sideline, so we’ll have a red team and a white team on East and a red team and a white team on West and let the same two guys call the whole game,” Frost said.
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