Nebraska to turn spring game over to young players
By ERIC OLSON
The way coach Bo Pelini sounded this week, the Cornhuskers' offensive stars and other top players might have their pads off by the second quarter.
The spring game, according to Pelini, is really about giving second- and third-stringers an opportunity to show what they can do in front of a big crowd. About 70,000 fans are expected.
"You're going to have a lot of young guys out there who haven't been in that situation before," Pelini said. "At the end of the day, it's about execution. We're not going to be blitzing all over the place and running a bunch of intricate things offensively. We're going to be very nuts and bolts and let our guys play fast and hard and have some fun."
The spring game has evolved into an event where stars of past Huskers teams come back to see old friends and glad-hand fans, and visiting recruiting prospects watch from the sideline and take in a game-day atmosphere.
Special guests are recognized on the field during breaks, and assistant coach Ron Brown leads the annual Drug Free Pledge for kids at halftime.
It's basically a celebration of all things Big Red.
The scrimmage, of course, is at the center of it all. Pelini said he'll figure out how long it lasts based on how many plays are run in the first half. A running clock will be used at some point in the second half.
The coaching staff will divide the players evenly between the Red and White teams. A few players will rotate in and out for both teams because of personnel shortages at some positions.
"We're looking to be as basic as we possibly can be and still get a good evaluation of the guys and how they execute the base things," Pelini said.
Pelini said he hadn't made a final decision on whether to allow quarterbacks to be tackled to the ground, though he was leaning that way.
Martinez, the starter for two seasons, probably will play about one quarter. Pelini said Martinez's quick exit isn't just to minimize the risk of injury. The coach said he wants to get a good look at top backup Brion Carnes and reserves Ron Kellogg, Tyson Broekemeier and Bronson Marsh.
The Huskers have been decimated by injuries on the line, but first-year coordinator John Papuchis said he's excited to see how his linebackers and secondary perform after strong spring performances.
"I hope you see tremendous effort," Papuchis said. "I hope you see a lot of energy. I hope you see guys flying to the football and trying to create turnovers, gang tackling. Saturday's going to be a little bit vanilla for us, defensively. We're not going to call a whole bunch of our defenses that we've worked on throughout the course of spring ball. But with that being said, I want to see technique, energy and effort."
Though the players know it's a scrimmage, the atmosphere should get the competitive juices flowing, receiver Tim Marlowe said.
"Having 70,000 fans there to cheer us on and having the Tunnel Walk brings more excitement so guys will be a little more pumped up," he said. "The speed of the game will be a lot faster. It'll be fun to make some plays."
Center Cole Pensick said, "If you're a competitor, you love it."
Updated April 14, 2012