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April 3, 2017

Scrimmage review

Welcome, everybody, to the Carriker Chronicles! WOO! The People’s Show! Where I’m bringing you the pulse of Husker Nation! A real quick heads-up: I will be interviewing Husker great and Blackshirts legend Jason Peter on Wednesday, so make sure you don’t miss that. If you don’t want to miss it, make sure you sign up for the Carriker Chronicles email notifications – that way it’s guaranteed to be sent right to you.

The Huskers had their first live scrimmage of this year this past Saturday, so here’s my reaction and breakdown.

I’m going to start on the defensive side of the ball with Bob Diaco. I love this guy’s energy; I love his passion, his enthusiasm. I love the way he gets in players’ faces when they mess up. I love the way he celebrates with them when something goes right. I think my favorite part of Bob Diaco may be that past defensive coordinators have tried to get kids to buy into their system; his attitude is “buy in or get out.” I kinda like that. You only want guys playing for you who want to be there, and it appears to me that most guys seem to be buying into his system. I love that.

Let’s go to the secondary. Joshua Kalu moving to the safety position: it makes us a little bit quicker, a little bit faster, a little bit smaller, but it gives us a little bit more diversity in what we can do in the secondary, especially when you get into those nickel and dime situations. It allows us to get our best athletes on the field (putting Lamar Jackson at the cornerback position) and I think that’s working out well. Joshua Kalu seems to be handling it well so far.

The linebackers: we have a lot of depth. A lot of guys: it’s a small army going from drill to drill at the linebacker position. I think the possible strength of this defense may be the inside linebacker position. We have Chris Weber and Dedrick Young as starters; we have Mo Barry and Avery Roberts; we have depth, we have athleticism. Avery Roberts is probably going to play as a true freshman. Mo Barry just looks like a raw, athletic guy who’s got football pads on – he’s got a good future ahead of him. The inside linebackers may be the strength of our defense with the athletic ability and the depth we have there.

The defensive line: I was curious to see how Freedom Akinmoladun was going to do handling these double teams. He appears to be doing just fine! Mick Stoltenberg: big, tall guy – how’s he going to do at nose guard? He’s a horse in there. He is doing very well against those centers, and he’s holding up against the double teams; Freedom’s holding up; Carlos Davis is doing very well; Khalil Davis can squat a house and bench press refrigerators. I wouldn’t fact-check that, but you get my point. He is extremely quick. Those four guys have stood out so far this spring; all four of them look very good. My only concern on the defensive line is that we need to develop some depth. We need to have a good, two-deep rotation in case someone gets nicked up or beat up. They also have to find a way to get Khalil Davis on the field, and not just as a back-up nose guard. When I was with the Redskins, sometimes defensive ends would go play nose guard to spell the nose guard. You gotta get your best players on the field! We gotta get Khalil Davis playing end, nickel, or playing in some other situations. The guy has starter-quality type talent. I want to see him get on the field as much as the other three guys I mentioned. We do need to develop some depth on the defensive line, and we need some pass rushers as well, and Pernell Jefferson has stood out to me. He could be not only be a pass rusher but a pass rushing specialist for us; he’s looked good on 1-on-1 pass rush drills, and he’s just a freshman.

The defensive energy and enthusiasm is just infectious at the moment, and you gotta give credit to Bob Diaco for that. Currently I would say the defense kind of had the edge in the scrimmage on Saturday, and throughout practices so far they’ve had the edge, which you would expect. Offense is more about timing and rhythm and the quarterback doing a three-step drop, planting – BOOM – throwing the football, and the receiver turning around being ready. It’s a lot more timing and a lot more rhythm, and it takes more time to get that. The defense had the edge on Saturday and appears to have the edge so far, but that is fairly normal.

The offense tried some wrinkles, draws, screens, and some quick throws but the defense reacted very well to that. Give the credit to the defense; the offense is still catching up. The offensive running game wasn’t great on Saturday in the live scrimmage but the pass game looked good. The accuracy of these quarterbacks is improved from previous seasons, and I think Husker fans are going to enjoy watching that. The offensive line has some room to grow and I think a lot of that is due to the defensive line playing so well right now, especially in the run game.

At the quarterback position, Tanner Lee has a great arm, no doubt about that. All the stories we’ve heard are completely and utterly true. He doesn’t appear completely comfortable when he has to go through the full progression of his reads, and sometimes with his footwork a little bit as well. I think the odds are he’s going to be our starter, although this is still a legit battle that is going on to win the starting quarterback job. Whether Patrick O’Brien starts now or in a couple of years from now, this kid has a bright future ahead of him. I like what I see out of him. He had some rough plays on Saturday but I think part of that was due to what the defense was doing on those particular plays. Tristan Gebbia looked very good in his first-ever live scrimmage in college football. I hear he’s one of those kids who stay up late watching film at night. I love that! I had a conversation with him, and he called me “sir” which I appreciated (even though it made me feel old) but I did appreciate. He just comes across like a good kid who wants to work hard and do really, really well. I like all three of our top quarterbacks right now, and going forward as well, because they’re all young and going to be back next year (unless somebody leaves early).

Mike Riley, when he was asked about possible quarterback separation, said, “Even if I did, I don’t want to say anything right now.” He’s not giving us any indication there just yet.

As far as the running backs, Mikale Wilbon and Tre Byant look really good. When there is somewhere to run, (again, credit the defensive line) they look really good. I’m not really sure what’s going on with Devine Ozigbo; I don’t know if he’s banged up or dealing with something, but right now the top two backs look like Mikale Wilbon and Tre Bryant.

As far as the wide receivers, Stanley Morgan, Jr., is probably our best receiver. De’Mornay Pierson-El is looking healthy. I think of Devin Hester (of the Seahawks) when I think of De’Mornay Pierson-El, because Hester is the best returner in the history of the NFL. Just look at the stats. He never materialized as a wide-receiver. I’m not saying De’Mornay Pierson-El won’t, I’m saying I hope he doesn’t fall into that same category as Devin Hester. I love that he’s got the ability to return the ball but I hope he takes those great play-making skills and turns himself into a wide receiver. He has the ability, no doubt. We have a lot of guys fighting for that slot receiver spot. We’ve got Keyan Williams, Bryan Reimers, JD Spielman, Zach Darlington, Keyshawn Johnson, Jr. Keyshawn Johnson, Jr. is getting on the field, and I don’t know if he’s still getting in football shape or if he got a little banged up but I hope he’s OK. Jaevon McQuitty will be back; he’s coming back from a little bit of an injury right now. I can’t wait to see Tyjon Lindsey when he gets here in the fall. We don’t have a whole lot of depth, even though we have a whole lot of names; we need some people to start to emerge as our third and fourth receivers.

At the tight end position, I still love Tyler Hoppes. I love his story and the fact that he took a chance and left Wayne State, left a scholarship, and walked on at Nebraska. Right now he is our starting tight end, and he’s the only tight end with any starting experience. I’m rooting for him! Matt Snyder and Jack Stoll are not far behind him. They haven’t been running a whole lot of sets with fullbacks so far this spring; they’re running more three wide receiver sets or two tight ends. Right now Tyler appears to be the starter, with a couple of guys hot on his heels. I’m still curious to see Kurt Rafdal and Austin Allen; 6’ 7”, 6’ 8”, the “Twin Towers.” If just one of those guys can get on the field this year they’d be a great short yardage, red zone target, just because of their size. Obviously they have to be able to block and know the offense.

Now for the offensive line: I’ve detailed how they’ve struggled a little bit so far this year but I’m not incredibly concerned. Like I’ve mentioned before in previous shows, I think we’re going to improve this year. I think the defense is just ahead right now. What I see on the offensive line is that they need to get a little more nastiness to them, more energy. They could feed off that defense just a little bit. They need to get that dawg in ‘em! Like when I come home, my three youngest (my four year-old and my one-year old twins) meet me at the door and I say, “What’s up my dawgs? Ar, ar, ar, ar!” and they bark back. That’s not in a football sense, that’s just Daddy having fun. When I drop off my two older kids off at school – and they started this on their own – they turn around right before they walk in the door, and they say, “Throw the Bones!” They came up with that out of nowhere. I guess I’m rubbing off on my kids. We need to develop a right tackle on the O line, and we just need to get that dawg, that fight, that nastiness, in the offensive line.

I want to send warm wishes to Zach Hannon who will be transferring. His dad was just diagnosed with Stage 2 prostate cancer and we wish him the best of luck, him and his dad both.

Be sure you tune in on Wednesday when I interview Husker great and Blackshirt legend Jason Peter and sign up for the Carriker Chronicles email notification. It’s right below where you clicked to watch this. You don’t have to worry about checking it; it’s sent right to you in your email.

Until Wednesday, GO BIG RED and always remember to THROW THE BONES!