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March 3, 2017

Spring preview

Welcome, Husker Nation, to the Carriker Chronicles, the people's show! I asked you fine folks at home what you wanted me to talk about today. Most of you responded with you wanted me to give you the five biggest things to watch throughout Husker spring practice, which starts tomorrow. Some of you wanted me to offer up some of my own predictions as well, so here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to give you five things to watch and my one biggest prediction heading into Husker spring practice.

Right off the top, of course, I've got to start with the quarterback battle. I'm not going to spend a whole lot of time on this, I'm not going to go into great depth because if you didn't know that the Husekrs are about to embark on a quarterback battle, then I don't know what to tell you! I will keep you updated frequently as the weeks go along throughout spring practice how this battle is progressing between Tanner Lee, Patrick O'Brien, and Tristan Gebbia. In case you didn't know, we currently retain exactly .01% of our total quarterbacking experience from a year ago. Translation: 99.9% of our quarterbacking experience from last season has gone elsewhere. This should be fun!

You might find this interesting, coach Mike Riley said they are going to determine which quarterback, Patrick O'Brien or Tanner Lee, starts taking reps with the first team offense when the Huskers step foot on the practice field for the first time tomorrow by flipping a coin. I don't know if I buy they're going to determine who starts taking reps with the first team offense by the results of a coin flip, but according to him, that's what he says, so that should be fun too!

The number two thing to watch is the running back battle. We've lost 70% of our rushing yards production as well, but I'll give you a few guys to keep your eyes on throughout spring ball. Number one, Devine Ozigbo, he's a power back and there have been times throughout the past couple of seasons I thought he was the best back on our depth chart. He was hampered a year ago by some injuries and let's give Terrell Newby some credit, that guy played really well a year ago as well. Another back to keep your eye on is Tre Bryant, this guy has a lot of speed and he was the Huskers 2016 Newcomer of the Year and his senior year in high school he was the Missouri Class 6 Offensive Player of the Year. He's got some big time ability.

One more running back to keep your eye on is Mikale Wilbon. This guy has shown flashes, he's just never been able to put his entire game together, whether it be pass protection, or some other things he's struggled with. Now, if he begins to put his whole game together, this guy has some potential. He could possibly become a major contributor in this Husker offense going forward. I do not hate the idea of a "thunder and lightning" approach with possibly Devine Ozigbo and Tre Bryant going forward, but it would be great if one of these running backs just took the starting job by the throat and made it their own going forward.

Next up is which of the young wide receivers will step up in spring ball because we have lost 63% of our receiving yards production from a year ago as well. When you lose guys like Jordan Westerkamp, Brandon Reilly, and Alonzo Moore, that's a lot of experience and production that is no longer with us. Heading into spring practice, Stanley Morgan Jr. and De'Mornay Pierson-El are the presumed starters, and we have some freshmen who are early enrollees to keep your eye on as well, a Mr. Javeon McQuitty and Keyshawn Johnson. Tyjon Lindsey, who may be the most talented freshman receiver we signed will step on campus on June 4th, but as far as spring ball goes, I'll give you a couple more names to watch. Redshirt freshman JD Speilman and junior transfer Keyan Williams, who is Keith Williams's son, we really need a couple of these guys to step up big starting with spring practice.

Number four, offensive line, we need some more consistency from these big boys up front. We do return a vast majority of the guys who contributed on the offensive line last year, but we also have some highly recruited guys that redshirted a season ago. Guys like John Raridon, Matt Farniok, and Michael Decker, who is presumed to be the starting center heading into spring ball now that Dylan Utter has graduated and moved on. These guys have all created a bit of a buzz about themselves, and from what I understand, a couple of them got a nice, little nasty streak in them and I love to hear that about offensive lineman. One more O-lineman to keep you eye on going forward is Jalin Barnett as well. He was a 2015 Offensive Scout Team MVP. All these guys will get a chance to compete for playing time and starting positions and I can't wait to see what happens now that they're no longer protected by these redshirts.

Last, but certainly not least, this new 3-4 defensive front seven. I talked at great length on Wednesday's show, check that out if you missed it, but I'm going to personally keep my eyes on which guys emerge as our top pass rushers, how we hold up in the middle of this defense, we don't have a lot of big 'backers, and Mick Stolenberg has worked really hard to put on weight, and I'm anxious to see how he does in his new role as our 3-4 noseguard. The next guy up is Freedom Akinmoladun and the reason I'm keeping my eyes on him is a couple years ago, he was 255 pounds and one of our top pass rushers. Now he's going to be asked to take on double teams on a consistent basis. I'm curious to see how he does in that role. Also, sub packages, a 3-4 defense is great for confusing opposing quarterbacks and part of that is the sub packages. I'm curious to see who Bob Diaco puts where in his sub packages, especially in pass rushing situations. I'm also curious to see how different the depth chart looks and where different guys are placed at the end of the spring ball versus where they are heading into spring ball as of right now.

My one big prediction heading into spring ball is that De'Mornay Pierson-El will return to his 2014 form. I'm not the first one to say this, but I'm saying it because I'm confident based on people I've talked to and if he can return to his form, his burst, his speed, his explosiveness. He's been hampered by some injuries the past couple years. If he can help us in the return game like he did and also bring that over to the wide receiver position he can be a big difference maker for the Huskers going forward in the upcoming season.

Be sure to Share and spread the word about the Carriker Chronicles to all of Husker Nation. Until Monday, GO BIG RED and always remember to THROW THE BONES!