LINCOLN — Bo Pelini said the Nebraska coaching staff will select the teams for the spring game and the format for the Red-White scrimmage will be nothing out of the ordinary.
“Just a game,” Pelini said Wednesday. “Split it up in half and let's go. We'll roll it out there and have some fun.”
Pelini said the Huskers wouldn't do a player draft because of injuries leaving NU nicked up and thin for the scrimmage that will culminate spring practice.
Ruled out for Saturday are I-back Ameer Abdullah, linebacker David Santos and cornerback Daniel Davie, and receiver Alonzo Moore also could sit. Some Huskers could be used by both teams in the 2 p.m. game.
Pelini said the NU staff will be able to do a “little bit” of evaluation off the scrimmage, but mostly said it comes down to wanting to see execution.
“It's not about tricking the other team or doing anything else,” he said. “It's about playing basic fundamentals, basic football ... and see how they handle the environment.”
Also, starting quarterback Taylor Martinez will likely see only a few series and not be involved in contact. The backup quarterbacks, however, will be live.
Offense will be at full speed for spring game
As of Wednesday night, Martinez remained in the dark about, well, nearly everything related to Saturday's Red-White scrimmage.
He didn't know which team he'd be on; the coaches pick Thursday. He didn't know how many series he'd play. He didn't know if coaches would allow him to run the ball, which would require defensive players tackling him.
“I haven't all spring,” Martinez said of running the ball on his trademark zone reads and quarterback draws. “I doubt it.”
Martinez did expect offensive coordinator Tim Beck to use the same tempo for his offense that NU employed last season — even if much of the Huskers' defense is young, inexperienced and seeing the field for the first time.
“We'll do exactly what we've been doing in practice,” Martinez said of a quick pace. “(The defense) has been lining up real good in practice. If they're not lined up, we'll snap the ball, so they better hurry up and get their butts lined up. Because they'll get yelled at if they don't line up.”
Redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong should get extended work Saturday; Martinez said Armstrong is “big and physical” and has, no apparent pun intended, a “strong arm.”
“He should be good,” Martinez said.
Martinez said he's mentored Armstrong “a lot” on nuances of playing quarterback at Nebraska.
“Just with the media, just knowing the plays and knowing how are fans and stadium is,” Martinez said. “Just little stuff. Gotta keep on grooming him for the upcoming season.”
Armstrong has not spoken to reporters since arriving in Lincoln last summer.
Abdullah learning from time on sideline
Abdullah will head into his junior year without having participated in a spring game. Severe thunderstorms canceled last year's extended scrimmage. This year, Abdullah will sit while he continues to rehab a knee injury.
“Very disappointed,” Abdullah said.
But there has been some small value in sitting out the last half spring, Abdullah said. He's been able to see some of the intricacies of the running game that he misses when carrying the ball himself.
One particular item Abdullah mentioned: How a running back has to “press” a hole open in a certain way to make room for a cutback lane. The more a running back can attack the “front side” of a hole, the more he can move the linebackers flowing to the tackle, and the more options he can have once he reaches the hole.
Abdullah's also been able to evaluate other I-backs on the roster. Who's impressed him? Fullback C.J. Zimmerer.
“He's come a long way in his development,” Abdullah said. “He's really improved a lot. He's gotten a lot stronger. He knows the offense like the back of his hand. He can tell me what I'm doing, what the guard's doing, what the quarterback's doing, whatever. That's really jumped out at me.”
Abdullah has packed on roughly 10 pounds of muscle — he's noticeably bigger in his upper body — since last spring. The 5-foot-9 Abdullah weighed between 184 and 188 pounds last spring. He weighs 196 now.
“I'm actually getting fat,” Abdullah said. “Just kidding.”
Offensive linemen comfortable with calls
Nebraska's first-team offensive linemen are getting more comfortable dissecting different defensive looks on the fly, then collectively relaying and correcting pre-snap calls.
There should be plenty of chemistry within the group since five of the seven linemen in NU's top rotation last year are back practicing this spring.
Senior tackle Brent Qvale said he's noticed clear improvement.
“Just being able to see defenses and identify defenses, make the right calls and execute,” Qvale said.
Why the improvement?
Senior guard Spencer Long said experience plays a big part. But also, “we've become a lot more confident as a unit,” he said.
Huskers benefit from break in practice
The NU spring game will be held two Saturdays earlier than usual, which led to some concern about potential weather issues, especially when it has snowed in the last week.
However, temperatures are supposed to reach the mid-60s on Saturday with a mix of sun and clouds.
“If the forecast holds true, I think the schedule worked out just the way we wanted it to,” Pelini said.
The March 2 start to spring practice was the earliest in memory. As with the last two years, the Huskers also had a week off in the middle because of NU's spring break.
In retrospect, Pelini said the split in the middle was good this year.
“It gave our guys a chance to catch their breath and it gave us a chance to make the most out of every single practice,” he said. “Importantly, it gave me a chance, and us a chance as coaches, during that week to look and see where exactly we were — and alter some things, change some things, really do what was necessary to allow this team to grow during that last half of spring practice.”
— Rich Kaipust, Sam McKewon and Jon Nyatawa
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>> Video: NU coach Bo Pelini after Wednesday's practice: