Nebraska football has not been this interesting to talk about in the spring in quite some time, but the homecoming for head coach Scott Frost is worthy of the buzz Lincoln is chirping about this spring. Frost is breathing some new life into a program in need of bouncing back in a big way as Nebraska looks to work its way back to national respectability, starting within the Big Ten.
Frost has some work ahead of him with Nebraska, starting this spring. Key position battles and a new approach to the game make this spring an interesting one for Nebraska, and fans will have no shortage of storylines to follow with their beloved Huskers.
5 Storylines to Watch During Nebraska’s Spring Practice
1. Raw experience at quarterback
With Tanner Lee leaving for the NFL a year early, the quarterback position is wide open for the taking in Lincoln this year. Sophomore Patrick O’Brien (appeared in four games in 2017) is far from a lock to win the starting job for the Huskers and early enrollee Adrian Martinez was one of the first key recruits signed under Frost. Redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia also will make his case for the job this spring as well. If nobody separates themselves from the other candidates, Frost may feel holding off on a decision until later in the summer may to his benefit.
2. Ball control must improve
Since Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011, the Huskers have had a cumulative turnover margin of -40, with just one season ending on the positive side of the turnover margin (+5 in 2016). Last season, Nebraska finished tied for last in the Big Ten in turnover margin with a -7 (Illinois and Indiana). Ranking toward the bottom of the Big Ten in turnover margin has become the norm for Nebraska, and that simply has to stop. Nebraska fans looking for a turnaround will be encouraged to know Scott Frost’s UCF team had an AAC-leading +17 last season and a +18 during Frost’s two years in Orlando. The Knights had the second-best turnover margin in the country last year (Wyoming was first with a +24).
3. Improving the defensive line
Nebraska’s shortcomings on defense have been highlighted on multiple occasions in recent years. When Nebraska goes up against the top offenses in the conference, Nebraska stands little chance of winning. One area to improve right away will be the defensive line, which must bring more pressure and disrupt opposing offensive lines with more consistency in 2018. Nebraska had a Big Ten-worst 14 sacks last season.
4. Nebraska’s dynamic receiving duo
The quarterback position will be a big question, but one position that should fare well will be the receivers. With Stanley Morgan back for his senior season and JD Spielman coming off a fantastic freshman debut, Nebraska has arguably the best receiver combo in the Big Ten. Morgan led the Big Ten with 89.6 receiving yards per game and the second-most touchdown receptions (10), and Spielman dazzled in 11 games with 830 receiving yards. Whoever is throwing the passes, odds are Morgan and Spielman will be catching the majority of them.
5. Just how quickly can Scott Frost change the narrative at Nebraska?
For all the deserved pomp and circumstance of Frost returning to Lincoln, the question still has to be asked. How long until Nebraska is “back?” The spring may not yield any definitive answers of course, because the work done on the field in the fall will be the ultimate litmus test, but Frost has re-energized the Nebraska program and that should carry over for the spring. The excitement level is high, but how long does it last?
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.
(Scott Forst photo courtesy of Nebraska Athletics)