Red-White Spring Game, 4/21/18

Nebraska coach Scott Frost walks the field during the 2018 Red-White Spring Game at Memorial Stadium.

As much of a phenomenon as it's become around here, Nebraska's Red-White Spring Game often can be forgettable.

This year's version has a chance to be on the memorable side.

It feels like a Husker Nation bash is about to break out.

A few reasons why:

1. There will be a significant Husker basketball presence.

New Nebraska men's basketball coach Fred Hoiberg will be on hand with a group of hoops recruits. He'll perhaps feel at least a tinge of nostalgia, in part because in 1991 he was a terrific run-and-shoot quarterback for Ames (Iowa) High School — good enough that he received a recruiting call from NU as it was in the tunnel before a game.

He'll soak it all in Saturday, and Doc Sadler will be on hand as well. Sadler, by the way, is an astute football observer. Many of our conversations during his tenure as Nebraska basketball coach (2007-12) were more about football than basketball. He always asked a lot of good questions and made interesting observations. I've long believed Doc would be an excellent news or sports reporter.

This could feel a bit like a welcoming party for Hoiberg and a coming home party of sorts for Sadler. Who knows, maybe Hoiberg will get to run onto the Memorial Stadium field after all. Will he sprint from the Tunnel Walk with Scott Frost? Is that a crazy notion? I'd love to see it. Remember, it's just a practice. I mean, Bo Pelini once emerged from the tunnel holding a cat.

We better get to the football stuff, pronto.

2. Although there's no quarterback battle at Nebraska — sophomore Adrian Martinez is one of the most exciting players in the nation — fans will be excited to size up true freshman Luke McCaffrey.

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound McCaffrey received ample praise this spring for how well he's learned the offense. He'll play on both the Red team and White team, mostly with reserves. How will the rookie respond in front of 90,000 fans?

Husker quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco thinks he'll perform well.

"He'll get some series in and it may not be with the sorts of guys who'll make him — how should I say this? — look more effective and efficient," the coach said. "What I'm looking for in those circumstances is this: Are your feet right and your eyeballs right at the very least?

"As all hell is breaking loose, those things become very important. Think about it: Let's say you're playing a team that is just physically better than you. Maybe our time clock is going to be a little faster. When all hell is breaking loose, what's our body language going to be like? What's our attitude going to be like?

"We just have to work through it."

Sounds like fun. It almost sounds like autumn.

3. Nebraska has produced only one all-conference offensive lineman since joining the Big Ten in 2011 — Spencer Long in 2012.

If Nebraska expects to win conference championships, that drought has to end soon. NU has to produce stars in the trenches.

Husker second-year offensive line coach Greg Austin says his group has made steady improvement this spring. But the line has some serious question marks, most notably at the center position. Redshirt freshman Cameron Jurgens of Beatrice appears to have an inside track to win the job even though he just started playing the position late last season.

Sophomore Hunter Miller and redshirt freshmen Will Farniok and AJ Forbes also are in the hunt. Austin wants someone to seize command, but it sounds like that's a ways away.

Left tackle Brenden Jaimes, a 6-6, 300-pound junior, is the team's best offensive lineman. He's become one of the team's most impressive physical specimens and could even be moving into all-conference contention.

4. One of my favorite moments of the spring may have been when senior cornerback Lamar Jackson, wearing a wide smile, informed reporters that he is the proud father of a new baby boy.

"You look at that little live creature and see you," Jackson said. "It's been a great experience. … Just the whole process of having a child is life-changing."

Jackson has had a bit of a rocky road in college. He was benched midway through last season but finished the schedule strong and now is regarded as one of the leaders of the defense. Secondary coach Travis Fisher says Jackson and safety Deontai Williams have the most interceptions this spring.

In other words, Lamar is making Legacy Nathan Jackson proud.

5. As Nebraska fans watch the action Saturday, they'll size up a squad that many pundits project to finish the coming season in the nation's top 25.

Of course, Martinez is the main reason those folks expect a turnaround from last year's 4-8 finish. Such projections also indicate a high degree of respect for Frost.

He says his team is "miles ahead" of last season. Martinez oozes ability and stability, but how well will his supporting cast round into shape? Graduate transfer Darrion Daniels injected energy into the defensive line, which appears to be deep and solid. But the Huskers are dangerously thin at the inside linebacker positions.

We'll learn more Saturday. Enjoy the party.

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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