Dienhart: Nebraska spring football wrap

With all of the tackling, running, hitting and passing that went on across the Big Ten during spring football games last Saturday, the top story was about Bo Pelini carrying a cat onto the field. And so it went during a Nebraska spring game that often times was more carnival than game.

Here’s what I gleaned as Bo Pelini enters his seventh season in Lincoln looking to notch this program’s first conference crown since 1999.

[ MORE: Watch a replay of the Nebraska spring game on BTN2Go ]

1. Tommy Armstrong entered the spring with something to prove; and he looked solid. The rising sophomore especially looked good executing the zone read. Perhaps most vital: Armstrong showed some swagger, a commodity every good quarterback must possess. Johnny Stanton and Ryker Fyfe also looked good on Saturday. Who is No. 2? Gotta love the competition. So, this should quell any questions that fans have about the Nebraska signal-callers, right? In fact, some Husker watchers think the quarterback spot hasn’t been in this good of shape since …2001?

2. The running backs are good. Ameer Abdullah didn’t take part in this spring gala. No need. We all know what he’s capable of. Heck, he’s the top back in the Big Ten, right? How about Imani Cross? The guy always has been a load, one of the most physical runners in the Big Ten. In the spring game, Cross carried six times for 100 yards and two scores. Those are Abdullah-type numbers for a running back unit that also includes Terrell Newby and Adam Taylor. Cross has the look and feel of an NFL back. He’s built to carry the load—and can go the distance.

[ MORE: Bo Pelini enters with cat | Pelini “The Lion King” photoshop  ]

3. Kicking could be an issue. No doubt, a missed short field goal and two failed extra points have everyone’s radar up. Maybe incoming freshman Drew Brown will help. But, maybe Mauro Bondi will come around. Who knows?

4. The move of Nathan Gerry from linebacker to safety looks good. Gerry turned heads as a true freshman last season in playing a key role as an undersized newcomer. But his dimensions, speed and athletic ability seem better served on the back end of a Nebraska defense that needs new starters at a cornerback and safety spot. The guy can hit and tackle.

[ MORE: Former Husker Jeremiah Sirles proposes at spring game ]

The quote: “Definitely, we have a lot of pieces that can contribute. If you have the best pieces in at the right time, that’s the only way we can get there. We have a lot of dynamic players. And the scary thing is: We’re still missing some key parts.” – Ameer Abdullah

The number: 626, yards gained by the Nebraska offense to go along with six touchdowns on 115 plays. It was a good sign for an offense that’s still getting its footing—even though it came vs. a defense that was playing without some key personnel (Randy Gregory and Corey Cooper). Still, it was encouraging for coordinator Tim Beck’s unit.

Offseason to-do list
1. Find a kicker.
2. Shore up the offensive line, especially the center spot. Who is the No. 1 guy? Mark Pelini? Ryne Reeves?
3. Refine the down-field passing of Tommy Armstrong. He hit just 51 percent of his passes last season.
4. Develop depth on the defensive line. The starters are boffo. The reserves?

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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6 Comments

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (6 Comments)
Bob Jones on 4/14/2014 @ 1:29pm EST Said:

Drew Brown is the younger brother of ex Husker great Kris Brown who also went on to a long NFL career.

Abdul on 4/15/2014 @ 3:41pm EST Said:

“He’s the top back in the B10 right??” Gee, ever heard of Melvin Gordon?? Clueless.

D.Johnson on 4/15/2014 @ 7:25pm EST Said:

Clueless? Come on. It’s one man’s opinion. Abdullah is the top returning back yards wise in the country. Tough to argue stats. Gordon is good. They both could be 1A and 1B in any order. Get over the Cheesehead greatness/arrogance.

B1G Red Observations on 4/20/2014 @ 10:35pm EST Said:

Tommy Armstrong may “command” the Husker offense, but unfortunately INTs will keep him on the sideline. Johnny Stanton is the most complete QB and will call the signals, and Beck will use Stanton’s arm to feed his stable of receiver talent. With a mixed dose of Abdullah, the Husker O will roll.

Huskerfan 33 on 4/22/2014 @ 4:22pm EST Said:

I agree Johnny stanton will be the guy Turnover Tommy is a great number 2 but with Johnnys potential Bo would be very Clueless to not start him with the amazing talent he will have around him. He will grow very very fast. Johnny has to much upside.

D.Johnson on 4/27/2014 @ 7:14pm EST Said:

I agree 100%. Johnny Stanton is the clear choice to start the season. Huskerfan 33 I agree Armstrong is a solid #2 and would be ok with him coming in if injuries were to happen. I think Beck could and would use Stanton just like he did when Kansas had Todd Reesing a fews years back. Reminds me a lot of the that guy who hung 70 on us.