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March 13, 2017

Offense &special teams

Welcome, everybody, to another glorious edition of the Carriker Chronicles; The People's Show! Where I bring you the pulse of Husker Nation three times a week; you have every Monday, Wednesday, and Fast Friday. Today we're just over a week in to Husker Football spring practices. Four practices in, to be exact, so I want to talk about what we've seen so far with the offense and the special teams of the 2017 Huskers. Let's dive right into it and start with the quarterbacks, of course. Now, real quick; I'm not going to go into a lot of depth today because I want to dedicate some time to go in depth with this quarterback battle. So I'm going to dedicate Fast Friday at the end of this week to the quarterback battle itself. I'm going to dedicate the entire show to this small to mediocre to rather large deal, who wins this quarterback battle. But I'll give you a quick sneak peek today.

First of all, they did flip a coin to see who was going to take the first reps with the first team offense when the first practice started, and Patrick O'Brien won the coin flip. He got those reps, and then with the second practice, Tanner Lee took all the reps with the first offense and they've been going back and forth, flip-flopping ever since. About 50-50 between POB and Tanner Lee. Real quick, Tristan Gebbia who's been taking reps with the third team offense; true freshman quarterback, early enrollee this spring. Obviously he's a little behind on the playbook as the other two quarterbacks have been here for a whole year longer than he has. Also, in my mind, he needs to catch up on the playbook, but he also needs to catch up on adding some mass because he only weighed in at 165 lbs. That's where he is at this moment. Walk on quarterback, Andrew Bunch has been getting his reps as well, but this battle is between Tanner Lee and POB at the moment. They've both looked pretty good so far. Tune in on Fast Friday as I break that position battle down even more.

Now, as for the running backs. Nobody between Divine Ozigbo, Mikale Wilbon, and Tre Bryant has really stepped up and grabbed this job by the throat like I was really hoping somebody would. I would rather not do another running back by committee thing again. I wouldn't mind a "thunder and lightning" thing with a Tre Bryant and Divine Ozigbo type of deal, but I will give you a name to keep your eye on. And it was a name that Mike Riley dropped. He was excited about him a year ago, but he sustained a head injury, so he wasn't able to play last year. He's a sophomore walk on, Wyatt Mazour. He was an All-State quarterback in high school, kind of a little fun fact there. He's 5'9" 190 lbs. He has great quickness and an ability to make people miss in open space, or even in a phone booth as well. In fact, Coach Riley has compared him to Danny Woodhead. He wanted to use him in the return game a year ago, keep your eye out for that this year. And hey, maybe if nobody grabs this running back job by the throat, maybe Wyatt gets more reps than we think at the running back position as well.

At the wide receivers, there are two guys who are head and shoulders above everyone else as the best on the team right now, and that's Stanley Morgan Jr. and DPE. Morgan has made some really nice catches so far this spring. At Saturday's practice, he had a couple one-handed catches that were pretty good. And then DPE looks as good physically as he has since his freshman year and sustained a few of those injuries, so I'm excited about him going forward. Another guy who has stood out a little bit, is Bryan Reimers and Gabe Rahn, who's really the only other guy with significant returning experience at the wide receiver position. As far as Keyan Williams and JD Spielman, they've been getting a lot of time in the slot. I think they're going to be focused on as the slot receivers. I don' think the coaches really want to put Stanley Morgan there, and JD Spielman and Keyan Williams have been doing pretty well in that slot. So it would be nice if we had that third receiver step up. We need some depth at the wide receiver position. We have two guys. You need more than two guys. What if you want to go 3 wide, 4 wide, what if someone gets banged up? We need some depth, so keep your eyes out for the guys I mentioned. Also, some of these young wide receivers that I was hoping would get some more reps during spring, just hasn't happened so far; Jaevon McQuitty had shoulder surgery earlier this year was able to do individual drills, but no contact; Keyshawn Johnson Jr has not practiced, he's still recovering from side effects of an appendectomy he had last December. I'm going to drop his name real quick, he doesn't get here until June, but that's Tyjon Lindsey. Once these guys are able to practice, keep your eye out for all of them, but Tyjon is one of those guys who can really take the top off the defense and have a big impact.

Now at the tight end position, I'm rooting for this guy; Tyler Hoppes. He's a transfer from Wayne State, from what I understand he had a scholarship there, and he transferred to Nebraska to walk-on. That immediately has me rooting for him, in addition to the fact that he's playing really well. If we played a game tomorrow, he would be slated to be our starter. If you look at the tight end position, we lost arguably our best tight ends from a season ago; Cethan Carter, Sam Cotton, and Trey Foster. That is 129 games played, 61 starts, 80 receptions, and 9 touchdowns. So Tyler, not only am I rooting for you, but we need you buddy.

As far as the offensive line goes, I got excited. Thursday and Friday they started practicing in pads. Those pads were popping. I don't know if you saw that Oklahoma drill, the video that was put out between Jerald Foster and Freedom Akinmoladun; Freedom lost that battle, he'll have plenty more chances against Jerald and other offensive linemen as well. I love to hear those pads popping, I love to see that Oklahoma drill, I love the way Jerald finished through the whistle. He has a bit of a mean, nasty streak which I enjoyed as well. When I was playing, you know you always had to have those first couple practices without any pads, which is an NCAA mandated rule. To me, it always felt like basketball on grass, but in all honesty in the trenches, you're going the same speed. There's just no pads to protect your shoulders, so a lot of times I was more sore after those practices than when we put the actual pads on. I always looked forward to wearing the pads, I always looked forward to hearing the pads pop in drills like the Oklahoma drill, so I was excited to watch that particular video. Keep your eye out for Jerald Foster, he's 6'3" 310 lbs. He was hurt last year and they thought he'd miss the entire year with that knee injury, but he came back and started the last four games and he played well.

The Huskers have this new Husker weight program. It's a way to build team chemistry, as well as competition within the team. They've been keeping track of various things, starting with winter conditioning, and they broke the team down into eleven groups with eleven captains. Jerald Foster, along with offensive tackle Nick Gates were two of the captains. Keep your eye on those guys as far as leading the team. I thought it was cool, I enjoyed hearing about the Husker weight program. But as far as the offensive line, I found this article and it says "Huskers are moving closer to a "game ready" two deep on the offensive line. Mike Riley has always wanted ten offensive linemen ready to play, but he's never had it." Now, there's always ten guys on your two deep offensive line, that's just -- you always have to have ten guys. But you don't always have ten guys that you trust. You might have six, seven, eight, maybe only five guys you actually trust in the game. So if we can get to -- we have a lot of these young guys along the offensive line who redshirted and can now play as well as add depth. If we're able to do that and get ten guys along the front, we could potentially have one of the best offensive lines we've had in the last few years here at Husker football.

I'm talking about the offense, so I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about Danny Langsdorf. He signed a one year contract extension that carries through January 31st, 2019. The base salary will remain at $500k per year. All assistant coaches are now signed through the 2018 season at least.

Now I want to move on to the special teams. Funny though, I want to start with Bob Diaco. Why? He is in charge of working with the punters. He went to Mike Riley, said he wanted to work with the punters and the punt team. We don't have a special teams coordinator, so all of the special teams duties are divided up between the Husker assistant coaches. And actually, Bob Diaco has been a special teams coach at four other programs, like Virginia. He's worked with punters everywhere he's been, even as the head coach at UConn which is very uncommon. I'm pretty sure he knows what he's doing. Caleb Lightbourn was thrust into that starting punter's roll last year with the tragic circumstances surrounding Sam Foltz. Caleb was inconsistent a year ago as a true freshman. Cut him some slack. But the punt team last year for the Huskers was 123rd out of 128 teams with a net average of 33.6 yards per punt. I think Diaco is going to help him a lot with that. Both the punt team, and Caleb Lightbourn himself, because he has a big leg, just has to find the consistency.

As far as the other coaches in charge of the various aspects of special teams, coach Mike Cavanaugh is in charge of punt and field goal protection. He will be assisted by running back coach, Reggie Davis. New safeties coach, Bob Elliott is in charge of the return team. Linebackers coach, Trent Bray and D-line coach, John Parrella are in charge of the field goal block team.

That's where we are on the offensive and special teams side of the ball. As for the Carriker Chronicles, I am excited, because on Wednesday, we are going to be joined by my Husker brother and team mate, Will Compton, who will be updating on what he's doing in the NFL. Also, he can speak to what it's like to play linebacker in a 4-3 as well as a 3-4 defense similar to how I explained playing d line in those systems. That's going to be pretty cool, some in depth analysis for you fans. As I mentioned on Fast Friday I'm going to be breaking down the quarterback battle more in depth. And Mr. Larry the Cable Guy, many of you know, is a huge Husker fan. Turns out, he's a fan of the Carriker Chronicles as well. He joined me for an interview and I will be posting that interview next week with Mr. Git 'r Done. So, Will Compton Wednesday, quarterback battle Friday, Larry the Cable Guy next week. Until Wednesday, Go Big Red, and always remember ... to THROW THE BONES!!!