Nebraska football practice, 4.3.2019

Wan'Dale Robinson (1) runs through a drill during practice on April 3 at Hawks Championship Center.

Nebraska offensive coordinator Troy Walters was asked Monday what 90,000-plus fans can expect to see during Saturday's Red-White Spring Game.

There will be new faces on both sides of the ball, and Walters said he's hoping to see toughness, execution and clean football when it comes to penalties.

How much fans will see of a couple key playmakers remains to be seen.

Junior JD Spielman and true freshman Wan'Dale Robinson continue to be limited in practice, and Walters said the coaches will be cautious with both.

Robinson is still feeling the effects of a hamstring tweak he suffered early in spring practice.

"As a former player, I error on the side of caution with hamstrings," Walters said. "We're going to take it slow and make sure that if he can go Saturday, he's healthy and ready to go, and if he's not, he'll be limited. We want to make sure he's ready for this fall, and really, this summer."

As for Spielman, "We'll just kind of go through the week and see where he is and go from there."

A hamstring injury isn't tempering coaches' expectations for the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Robinson, an early enrollee who fits the mold of a Duck position player in Scott Frost's offense. Walters said Robinson will be a key ingredient come fall.

"He's picked up the offense, he's a student of the game, he understands football," Walters said. "When he's out of school, doesn't have class or tutoring, he's in the office, trying to learn receiver, trying to learn running backs with myself and Coach (Ryan) Held. He's a pro."

Walters said the quarterbacks will wear no-contact jerseys for Saturday's game, but they'll still be able to run running plays.

Nothing's final: Nebraska left tackle Brenden Jaimes and right tackle Matt Farniok are regarded as the strength of the Husker offensive line. One might think they essentially have starting positions locked up.

Think again.

"Nobody's solid," Nebraska offensive line coach Greg Austin said following Monday's practice. "Nobody's solid until we play South Alabama (Aug. 31) in Game 1. Those guys, they've got to continue to work. Whenever you feel like you're solid, there's a tendency to lay off and think, 'Oh, I got it, I got it, I got it.'

"Nobody's solid," Austin reiterated, noting that he wants his linemen to operate every day as if they have to earn their spot.

"I have to earn my spot at my house," the coach said. "I can't just walk in there thinking, 'Oh, I'm the king,' or the girls will take it over. But seriously, our guys compete every day. Because it's always on the line."

He added, "I'm not going to stand in front of you and say, 'This guy's challenging (Jaimes) to a spot. But (Jaimes) knows that I'm going to hold you to a standard that you're not even going to hold yourself to, because you have to get better. You can't think, 'Oh, this is my spot and I can just rest and hang out.' You start thinking that way and you're going to regress."

Austin said he's seen steady improvement in his top-unit linemen. He also feels better about his group's depth.

"Now I think we can say, 'If this guy goes down, we'll go here. If that guy goes down, we'll go here. We'll move that around, we'll move this around,'" he said.

"I'm just kind of excited about the overall depth."

Center battle: Austin said earlier in the spring he wanted to see a center take command of the position.

Those battling for the starting role include sophomore Hunter Miller as well as redshirt freshmen Cameron Jurgens, Will Farniok and AJ Forbes.

"We're still working on that," Austin said. "It's not there yet. We're making progress. Progress is a little bit slow because those guys are young -- young kids. To be expected. But they're working, and they're getting better."

Martinez bigger: Fans can safely assume to see a big play or two from Adrian Martinez on Saturday. They may also notice how much bigger and stronger the sophomore quarterback looks, Walters said.

Martinez continues to grow as a leader, too.

“Seems like every day he adds another element of maturity and that leadership quality is coming out of him," Walters said. "He comes to work every day ready to go, and that's No. 1."

That's leading to Walters spending less time coaching up players during practice.

“Each day ... he's focused, he's ready to go and he's bringing guys along with him," Walters added. "The receivers, they know it's not acceptable to drop a ball, it's not acceptable to run a wrong route, and if they do, he's the one getting on them, and not me."

Bryant back to RB: Walk-on redshirt freshman Moses Bryant is back at running back, the position he starred at during his time at Elkhorn South.

“He does a lot of good things. He’s just got to learn the plays,” running backs coach Ryan Held said. “We moved him a week into (spring), so he kind of had to play catch-up. He didn’t get the initial install that the other guys had. When he knows what he’s doing and gets the footwork right and everything, he does some good stuff.”

Held said the staff had a good idea of where Bryant, listed at 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds, stood at corner and wanted to see what he could do on offense, particularly with light numbers at the position this spring.

“We’ll see if that’s the position that really works for him,” Held said.

Bunch ‘not looking back’: Andrew Bunch explored the possibility of a transfer this winter and then ultimately decided to stay in Lincoln.

In what will likely turn out to be a relatively rare situation, he did both with the full blessing of Frost and quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco.

“That was awesome,” Bunch said. “I love Coach Frost and I love Coach Verduzco. Those are two guys that are two of my favorite coaches ever. To have those two guys standing beside me during that process was pretty awesome.”

Bunch told reporters that he visited FCS power South Dakota State and a couple of other smaller schools, but ultimately decided he’d rather come back to Lincoln. The junior is a walk-on and will compete with sophomore Noah Vedral, freshman Luke McCaffrey and redshirt freshman walk-on Matt Masker for the No. 2 job behind sophomore Adrian Martinez.

“At the end of the day, I want to be here and I’m not really looking back any more,” Bunch said.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.


Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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