From the Sidelines
Can you believe it? Husker football is now just three days away.
Hallelujah and pass the popcorn.
Wow, talk about a long off-season.
In ramping up for the opening kickoff, Aurora’s Austin Allen was one of four Husker football players who spoke to the local media via Zoom one week ago, and of course, he represented well. No surprise there. He even gave a shout-out to the Huskies, making note of their win over No. 1 Hastings at the time.
Austin is one of three top tight ends for the Huskers this season, the others being senior Jack Stoll and junior newcomer Travis Vokalek from Missouri (via transfer from Rutgers). Austin always tells it like it is and doesn’t hold much back, which is very refreshing.
He mentioned a lot of the same things that he did when I talked to him a couple weeks ago for this column, but I was still glad to hear him think back and recall that he and his teammates never, ever want to feel how they felt following the heartbreaking last-second loss to Iowa to end the 2019 season.
“That’s been my motivation to grind this off-season,” he told reporters. “In the tight end room especially, it was evident after the Iowa game that we never wanted to feel that way again. Looking around at my teammates in the tight end room, I knew I never wanted to see that face ever again.
“This whole camp, we’ve known we’ve got a big target with Ohio State coming up. He (Coach Frost) has us in the best shape we’ve ever been in, practicing up tempo more than we ever have. I know I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in. That makes me feel better about what we’ve got going into the game. That gives me confidence that I’m not going to lag off on an eight-play drive, and that goes across the board. Everybody’s in better shape.”
He went on to say that from his perspective, he’s seeing Husker running backs hitting the holes better than they ever have, and linebackers filling gaps more quickly, too.
He also told the media that his roommate, receiver Kade Warner, is showing great leadership in helping all of the receivers get a better understanding of the offense.
“He’s having guys over every Monday, every Thursday, to watch some football,” Austin pointed out about Warner, who these days is sporting a Mario Brothers mustache. “He’ll have a white board in the living room and he’ll say, ‘Let me talk you through this defense. Let me talk you through this offense.’ As a whole, these new receivers in the program are getting a lot better.”
Nebraska’s head coach came out last week and said there’s basically a two-man race at quarterback, and that nothing is set in stone as far as Adrian Martinez being the starter (although Husker fans would be shocked if he wasn’t the first one under center this Saturday).
“Quarterback is a true competition,” Austin added. “Luke (McCaffrey) has shown a lot of great things. Adrian (Martinez) is still doing great things. Two great guys battling for the position.
“It’s going to help us as a whole. As an offense, that’s going to make us better.”
Regardless of Saturday’s outcome, I believe substantial progress is being made by Frost.
Better talent. More explosive players. More experience up and down the roster. A new offensive coordinator with a stellar track record.
What I’m most excited to see is at what level can Adrian perform this season. Good teams need playmakers at the that position. Without that, wins become more difficult to come by.
But what if he struggles? How short of a leash does Frost have the junior on in favor of the redshirt freshman? Will they both play no matter what?
What about the running backs? Who will be featured along with Dedrick Mills? We’ve heard good things from Ronald Thompkins, but I’m fascinated to see if 5-9 freshman bowling ball Marvin Scott III can make an impact.
Omar Manning, the nation’s top junior college recruit a year ago, has been “nicked up” according to Frost, so will the receiver be available against the Buckeyes? Will true freshmen receivers Alante Brown and Zavier Betts contribute and be as good as advertised? Can Wan’Dale Robinson stay healthy?
On the O-line, how big will 6-9 freshman tackle Bryce Benhart look in a Husker uniform? Will Cam Jurgens have trouble with his snaps to begin this season?
Defensively, how will our front three hold up, and who the heck are our front three? Will the linebackers make plays in space? Will defensive coordinator Erik Chinander gamble and try to put pressure on Buckeye quarterback Justin Fields, or will the BIG’s best make us look silly like he did a year ago in Lincoln?
Finally, can outside linebacker JoJo Domann and safety Marquel Dismuke step up their game as seniors? I’d like to see more from both of you, thank you very much.
Enough already. Let’s tee it up guys.
DAVE BRADLEY can be reached at email@example.com.