Nebraska Spring Football Practice: 3 Storylines To Watch

    Nebraska spring football practice preview for 2017. The Cornhuskers are expected to contend for the Big Ten West title following a successful season.

    March 1, 2017

    Nebraska spring football practice preview for 2017. The Cornhuskers are expected to contend for the Big Ten West title following a successful season.


    Nebraska’s 7-0 start to last season had it ranked in the top 10 and even prompted some talk of it reaching the College Football Playoff if it could get through the Big Ten powers later in the year. The Cornhuskers didn’t and wound up dropping four of their last six games.

    Still, the improvement to 9-4 in coach Mike Riley’s second season from the 6-7 dud in 2015 has given Husker Nation hope that Nebraska can take another step forward with spring practice on the horizon. But the Huskers lost some key players to graduation and have to decide on a new starting quarterback.

    Here are three storylines to watch as Nebraska’s spring football practice starts Saturday.

    Nebraska Spring Football Practice Storylines

    1. Bob Diaco’s defense

    Riley hired the former UConn head coach as defensive coordinator to replace the fired Mark Banker, and it could wind up being a move that turns out to be one of the best of the college football offseason. That doesn’t mean the transition will be easy, though, as Diaco runs a 3-4 scheme, which could bring plenty of lineup changes as the holdovers grasp the changes.

    Diaco didn’t have much success during his first head-coaching venture, but he has a strong reputation of being a brilliant defensive mind who can teach the game well going back to his days as Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator.

    2. Tanner Lee or Patrick O’Brien?

    Lee is a Tulane transfer who has been viewed as a pro prospect with plenty of potential. He spent last year on Nebraska’s scout team after throwing for 3,601 yards and 23 touchdowns with 21 interceptions in two seasons with the Green Wave. Lee is a pocket passer and seems to have the advantage of winning the starting job over O’Brien heading into camp because of his experience playing the college game.

    But don’t count out O’Brien, a redshirt freshman who was a highly touted recruit of Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf. If Lee slips up in camp, Nebraska still has a solid option with O’Brien waiting for his chance.

    3. Offensive changes

    Langsdorf has said he doesn’t want to make wholesale changes despite the Huskers struggling offensively in the second half of the season, but some are inevitable. Tommy Armstrong graduated, and his style is different than both of the quarterbacks waiting in the wings.

    Starting running back Terrell Newby is also gone, likely leaving the job to Devine Ozigbo. But Ozigbo missed some time because of an ankle injury suffered in October, and with Tre Bryant coming off his freshman season, the Huskers don’t have a proven running back.

    Nebraska also lost its top wide receiver in Jordan Westerkamp, leaving Stanley Morgan Jr. and De’Mornay Pierson-El as the top returners at the position. Redshirt freshman JD Spielman and incoming freshman Jaevon McQuitty – a 4-star recruit from Missouri – could emerge as threats in the passing game with solid performances in camp given Nebraska’s relative inexperience at wide receiver.

    Nebraska’s spring football practice concludes on Saturday, April 15 with its annual spring game.

    MORE: Big Ten Football Predictions, Storylines For 2017

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