Whether it was Frank Solich being honored or Nebraska’s new mascot being unveiled, there was a lot to take in at Nebraska’s Spring game. But the most intriguing part of the game was the new faces that were featured in the game. We break down the top storylines from the event on Saturday.
The Jeff Sims Show
As one of the most experienced quarterbacks on Nebraska’s roster alongside Casey Thompson, there was a strong possibility that Sims would take over the reins as the starter this Spring. Now, these suspicions are confirmed by his impressive showing in the spring game. In the first quarter alone, he completed a bevy of passes to sophomore tight end Nate Boerkircher to lead the White Team to the endzone. He then showed off his speed when he took the ball into the endzone himself for his first touchdown. His next target was former Virginia wideout Billy Kemp IV. On the day he had two catches, one of them being a first down. But can their explosive plays set them apart from another talent, or will other players improve in the summer?
It's always a great day to be a Husker. #GBR pic.twitter.com/o7mYWOvPSn
— Nebraska Football (@HuskerFBNation) April 22, 2023
Lots of Fumbles
When it was all said and done, both the Red and White Teams combined for six total turnovers at Nebraska’s Spring game. Head coach Matt Rhule was not pleased. In his media address right after the game, he said that he “Could live with an interception here or there.” Of course, his reaction is also to not play you after a turnover. However, what was inexcusable to the staff is the number of fumbles that they had. Rhule said, “You have to have the ability to protect the football at all times.” These statements provide a harsh criticism of the offense, but that type of focus is needed when the team approaches Summer practice under him.
New Stars on Defense?
For redshirt freshman Princewill Umanmielien, the moment was never too big. But, he was used to this. As one of the top defensive line prospects in the state of Texas in 2022, he had 130 tackles, 47 tackles, and 21 sacks in his final two years at Manor High School. It seems that the Spring game was no different as he racked up three tackles for loss and a sack. Another new face who saw significant playing time is Cameron Lenhardt. As a four-star defensive end out of IMG Academy, he racked up 21 tackles with seven tackles for loss in his senior season at IMG Academy. Saturday, he had an impressive start to his Husker career. He tallied four tackles and a pass breakup. Furthermore, Elkhorn South’s Maverick Noonan joined the fray by racking up several tackles for the Cornhuskers on defense.
Read more about Princewill Umanmielien and Cameron Lenhardt here: https://lastwordonsports.com/collegefootball/2023/02/01/nebraska-2023-signing-day-a-class-in-review/
Still No Concrete Depth At Quarterback
It is clear that Sims and Thompson are two of the top candidates for Nebraska’s quarterback position. But what about the other quarterbacks behind them? Half of Chubba Purdy’s passes hit the turf and were sped up due to pressure, while Heinrich Haarberg struggled to complete a pass until the fourth quarter. Freshman Richard Torres was no better, as he only completed a couple of passes for short gains. If the Huskers want to improve their quarterback situation, the backups will need to get more reps with the starters this summer.
Billy Kemp Shines In Huskers Debut
It is safe to say that Billy Kemp had a legendary career at Virginia. He caught 192 passes for 1,774 yards with the Cavaliers, making him one of the most prolific wideouts in the school’s history. Now at his new home in Nebraska, he is proving that he can replace Trey Palmer’s production. Kemp demonstrated this in Nebraska’s Spring game when he caught three passes for 39 yards and a two-point conversion. But can he maintain his production throughout the summer? Program veterans like Marcus Washington, Isaiah-Garcia Castaneda, and Xavier Betts are all in the mix for the starting position, and could easily take his job if he drops off.
A New Fullback in The Making?
When offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield said that there would be a fullback in Nebraska’s offense once again, it made Husker fans giddy with excitement. But what they didn’t know was that it would be hybrid tight end Janarian Bonner. The Georgia native impressed in his Spring game performance when he carried the ball three times for 13 yards. On the other hand, Bonner also was excellent as a receiver. This was exemplified when he caught a pass for 11 yards. Based on these flashes of versatility, Bonner is learning the position quite well. But is there someone that could take his place? Rhule claimed that other players like Trevor Ruth and Braden Klover could step up in that position because of their blocking ability.
First play: Fullback trap@HuskerFBNation opens spring game with a play to honor former FB Frank Solich, who is back in Lincoln and will be honored at halftime. pic.twitter.com/0edpo5ttKc
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) April 22, 2023
Photo courtesy Omaha World Herald