McKewon: Welcoming back an old rite of spring — a Husker depth chart

Mike Riley said he will release a post-spring depth chart. In the meantime, Sam McKewon offers his to get an early feel for how things might shake out. 

See Sam McKewon's full Husker depth chart that accompanies this column, complete with position-by-position analysis, projected starters, impact freshmen and more.

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LINCOLN — On April 14, 1993, former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne introduced a few new words to his annual post-spring depth chart.

“Meet Sam, Rover, Mike, Will In NU’s 4-3 Defensive Scheme,” read The World-Herald headline. Lee Barfknecht’s story detailed the changed terminology for the 4-3 defense that helped deliver Nebraska’s three national titles.

The starting Sam linebacker, by the way, was Ernie Beler. Mike Anderson was appropriately the starting Mike linebacker. Troy Branch got the nod at Will, holding a spot for the injured Ed Stewart, while Toby Wright was the starter out of spring practice at Rover.

I’m sure I read that story and pored over the chart. I probably even committed those new position terms to memory. The rhythms of life for a Nebraska football follower.

Osborne was consistent in his release of a pre-spring and post-spring depth chart. Often, the depth charts changed little, but were little markers of time in a long march toward the season. They tided you over. A snack.

So ears perked when new coach Mike Riley said he’d release a post-spring depth chart at some point this spring or summer. Riley has conducted player meetings since the spring game, and because the university’s semester just ended, it makes sense that he hasn’t released it yet.

But if one does come, it’d be the first in years. The last one appears to have come at the end of the Frank Solich era. The big news was walk-on Jack O’Holleran jumping to the No. 1 wingback job — but the position had been renamed the “Z” receiver.

The depth chart tradition appeared to take time off during the Bill Callahan and Bo Pelini eras. Pelini never seemed all that fond of in-season depth charts, either, although he’d usually drop one right before the season. Pelini was definitely fond of deploying the word “OR” on his depth chart to denote that several players could be starters or backups.

Our look at where players might stand coming out of spring has a lot of “ORs” on it, as well. The depth chart, whenever Riley releases it, would seem settled in spots — a good chunk of the defense, for example — but could be a jumble along the offensive line and at wide receiver.

We feel confident, though, that the quarterback job is Tommy Armstrong’s unless he gets dinged up in August. Armstrong’s development — the growth of the quarterback position as a whole — will be a key in fall camp, as NU’s inconsistent quarterback play most of the past decade has kept the Huskers from entering the top echelon of college football.

Here’s our position-by-position breakdown. If Riley puts out his depth chart, we’ll analyze it and so will you. It’s a rhythm of life.

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