LINCOLN — Nebraska quarterback Andrew Bunch has fully turned the page from his choice to return to NU after putting his name in the transfer portal. Bunch said he “couldn’t even tell you” when he made the final decision to come back.
“Nebraska’s where I want to be,” Bunch said. “It’s the team I want to play for, it’s the team I’ll go to war with. I love playing for Coach (Scott) Frost and Coach (Mario) Verduzco.”
Bunch said he looks forward to the team “putting on a show” for Husker fans and showing what they’ve been working on “behind the scenes.”
It’s likely that Bunch and Noah Vedral are battling for the backup job behind starter Adrian Martinez. Bunch started one game last season — a 24-19 loss to Troy — but Vedral wasn’t eligible at that point.
“I’m extremely confident in the offense,” Bunch said.
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New position for Bryant
Elkhorn South walk-on Moses Bryant has moved from cornerback to running back.
Bryant holds the Nebraska high school record with 105 career touchdowns and set the Class B rushing record with 5,454 yards.
Nebraska running backs coach Ryan Held said they moved Bryant after one week of spring practice to try it out. He’s stayed there since.
“He kinda had to play catch-up. He didn’t have that initial install that obviously the other guys have just due to playing the position,” Held said. “When he knows what he’s doing and gets the footwork right and everything, he does some good stuff.”
Nebraska is thin at running back after the graduation of Devine Ozigbo — who, along with Stanley Morgan, is training on campus for the NFL draft — and the uncertain status of Maurice Washington due to his legal issues. It only has two scholarship running backs on the roster this spring. Bryant provides another option.
“He’s a guy that can run, he can catch the ball, so we’ll see if that’s the position that really works for him,” Held said. “I think running back is his spot probably where he maybe wants to play. I think he’s a guy that can give us some juice at that position.”
It’s been a make-or-break spring for another homegrown running back, Jaylin Bradley. He’ll get a chance during Saturday’s spring game to earn a high spot on the depth chart.
Held said all of his backs will see the field to prove they belong.
“When a guy gets in there, he better be ready to rock and roll,” Held said. “When the lights come on, (we want to) see what you can do.”
Nebraska will have three backs join the program this summer — Rahmir Johnson, Dedrick Mills and Ronald Thompkins — so the spring game could be the final chance for guys like Bradley, or walk-on Brody Belt, to make a lasting impression.
“That position’s gotta be right. Come the fall we’ll get a few more guys to come in, but I’m excited. We have gotten better in spring at times,” Held said. “I’m excited for the other guys coming in where we can get the running back position where it’s a position of strength.”
What coaches want to see
It’s game week, so to speak. And Nebraska offensive coordinator Troy Walters knows what he wants to see Saturday.
Minimal penalties. No turnovers. A high-tempo attack. Most of all, which Huskers will rise to the occasion in front of a sold-out crowd.
“We’re going to keep the game plan simple,” Walters said. “We’re going to let guys run around, make plays. We’re not trying to trick the defense or the other team or anything. We want guys to go out there and have the opportunity to make plays.
“It’s going to be a great atmosphere — 90,000, game-like situation. So we want to see which guys, younger guys who haven’t played a lot, which one of those guys step up and can handle an environment like it’s going to be.”
Walters said quarterbacks will wear green no-contact jerseys, though they will be able to rush. Early enrollee Wan’Dale Robinson — a receiver/running back hybrid — is “still limited” by a nagging hamstring injury. Receiver JD Spielman is in the same category, though Walters added that he won’t need many reps.
Health and good execution are the two top priorities for the day.
“Keep it simple but play fast,” Walters said.
Hunt continues rise
Andre Hunt continues to come up as a Nebraska receiver on the rise. His position coach said he’s taken the biggest jump of the spring.
The redshirt freshman from Palm Dale, California, is working with the No. 1 offense, Walters said. His maturity and understanding of the offense allow him to play faster.
“Last year he kind of had some days where the focus and concentration wasn’t there and he’d have some drops,” Walters said. “Now he’s focused, he’s seeing the ball in. He’s probably the most consistent pass catcher that’s been out there. So he’s done a great job.”
The 6-foot, 190-pound Hunt saw the field against Troy and Bethune-Cookman in 2018 but didn’t register any stats.
Among other receivers, Walters said early enrollee Jamie Nance has had “a lot” thrown at him, and “he’ll make a jump this summer.” Senior Mike Williams is “explosive,” and Jaevon McQuitty needs to be more consistent.
Robinson is “a pro” in how he’s preparing his mind and body for the fall, Walters said. When healthy, the freshman figures to be a “key ingredient” in what the Huskers do offensively as both a receiver and a running back.
Martinez’s maturation has also benefited the receiver group.
“He’s bringing guys along with him,” Walters said. “So the receivers, they know that it’s not acceptable to drop a ball, it’s not acceptable to run the wrong route. And if they do, he’s the one getting on them and not me. So he’s taken that step with the freedom and the right to get on guys when they don’t do the right things.”
Battles on O-line
Nebraska offensive line coach Greg Austin cut a reporter’s question off at the pass.
“Nobody’s solid,” Austin said. “Nobody’s solid. Nobody’s solid until we play South Alabama game one.”
Austin had been asked if juniors Brenden Jaimes and Matt Farniok, NU’s returning starters at left and right tackle, had solidified their hold on those jobs through the first 12 practices of spring. While experience is an advantage, Austin said, he’s not in the business of handing out jobs yet.
“That’s what day in, day out we preach,” Austin said. “You have to earn your spot. ... They compete every day. It’s always on the line. I’m not going to stand in front of you and say this guy is challenging Jaimes for a spot, but Jaimes knows. I’m going to hold you to a higher standard than you’re going to hold yourself to, because you have to get better. You must get better.”
John Raridon said he’s in a position battle between both guard spots. The junior said he felt like he was held back last fall because of inconsistencies.
“I’d be good one play and bad technique the next and I’ve just been trying to be more consistent about that,” Raridon said. “I trust that the guys that are gonna be best for the team are gonna be playing, so I’m just gonna keep working and let it shape up how it shapes up.”
Nebraska’s centers are “still working” to figure out who among Cameron Jurgens, Will Farniok and AJ Forbes is the No. 1 guy, Austin said. Jurgens has worked with the No. 1 offense during every practice session open to reporters. Austin said he’s cross-training multiple linemen at other spots along the line.
“We can put our best line out there given any circumstances,” Austin said.