We hit on the lack of QB competition thus far for Nebraska in the spring and more in this week’s 3-2-1 column.
1 – The QB competition has been pretty non-eventful this spring
When Nebraska signed both Casey Thompson and Chubba Purdy in January, I think the thought was Thompson would win the job, but Purdy would still push him and make things interesting.
Unfortunately, an unforeseen foot injury to Purdy has not made this happen. The quarterback situation has been one of the most uneventful position battles of the spring.
Yes, Logan Smothers has been there every day, but Thompson still has a pretty sizeable lead over him right now from the different program sources I talk to.
Heinrich Haarberg has also been limited this spring at times, and Richard Torres is coming off a knee injury.
Going into this final week of spring practice, can Mark Whipple get Purdy back to add some spice to this competition, or is it going to be a smooth sail through Apr. 9 for Thompson?
My concern today is if something happened to Thompson, is there a quarterback on this roster Whipple thinks could win them a Big Ten football game with such a limited sample size to evaluate?
2 – The picture at running back is clearing up
Will Nebraska have a bell-cow back in 2022? It’s not like NU hasn’t tried to have one the last three years, as Dedick Mills battled injuries in 2019 and 2020, and Rahmir Johnson got banged up after he was stepping into that role in 2021.
You also had the Greg Bell issues in 2018 and the Maurice Washington problems in 2019 that complicated the running back conversation. Luckily in 2018, Scott Frost fell into a bell-cow back in Devine Ozigbo, who took the job over after Bell quit.
Right now, I see three backs pulling ahead of the pack this spring – Johnson, Anthony Grant and Jaquez Yant. They have gone back and forth all spring. Each has had their moments.
For a guy like Yant, this is the first time he’s stepped into a role like this. Last spring, and even in August, he was buried on the depth chart. Now Yant is getting quality reps with the one offense along with Johnson and Grant.
Of the three backs, Grant is the one that intrigues me the most. He is not only a good side-to-side cutback runner, but he also runs with power.
The wildcard remains Gabe Ervin and where he factors into the competition when he returns to full action this summer. Ervin is currently doing light work in practice, but nothing in terms of contact.
3 – Nebraska scores a huge transfer portal DL visit from Ochaun Mathis
There have been a lot of concerns raised about Nebraska’s lack of depth and playmakers on the defensive line.
Those questions could soon be answered. TCU defensive end/edge rusher Ochaun Mathis announced on Twitter he will be taking an official visit to Nebraska for the Red-White spring game.
Mathis is graded as one of the top overall available prospects in the portal. The Athletic’s Max Olson ranks Mathis No. 1 right now for available players.
“Now that the most coveted quarterbacks in this transfer portal cycle have made their decisions, Mathis moves up to the No. 1 spot in our best available rankings,” Olson, a long-time Big 12 expert writes.
Getting Mathis on campus is step No. 1. I’m told he’s expected to be accompanied by several family members and friends as well. The Huskers have a great opportunity with Mathis.
1 – Who will lead Nebraska in receiving yards in 2022?
When I look at Nebraska’s top receivers, there are a few different directions you could go with who will lead them in total yards in 2022.
Today, that guy for me would be LSU transfer Trey Palmer. I just think his familiarity with Mickey Joseph, his speed, and his chemistry with Casey Thompson makes him the logical choice. Today, I would not be surprised at all if he finished with 1,000 yards receiving. I think he’s in the best position to get the most targets in the offense.
2 – What is the players’ schedule after the spring game?
With an early spring game on Apr. 9, what is the player schedule after the game? Final exams at Nebraska this year run through May 13.
That means Zach Duval and his staff will have another month of work in the weight room with the football team. Look for the Huskers to do one final phase of conditioning work in April before the players get some time off.
The first five-week summer session begins on June 6. Ideally, NU would have started spring ball at least one week later, but the field turf project at Memorial Stadium forced them to begin early, that way the May 14 commencement ceremony could potentially be held in Memorial Stadium on the new turf.
What will Nebraska’s spring game crowd be in 2022? My guess is somewhere between 50,000 and 55,000.
That seems low, obviously, compared to what we saw in 2019 – the last time full crowds were allowed for a spring game. However, I predict Nebraska will still lead the nation in 2022 in spring game attendance. To put it in perspective, in 2019 five schools had crowds of over 60,000 at their spring games – Nebraska, Alabama, Ohio State, Penn State and Clemson.
I think you will probably see smaller numbers everywhere after 2020 and 2021 derailed spring game crowds, and NU will still lead the nation, despite the overall number being a lot less than in 2019.
Sean Callahan can be reached at email@example.com and he can be heard each day at 6:45 am and 5:05 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha during the football season. He can also be seen on KETV Channel 7 in Omaha during the fall and each week he appears on NET’s Big Red Wrap-Tuesday’s at 7 pm.