Deep down, we wish every Saturday was Game Day.
That's why about 80,000 people will fight traffic to go watch the 15th spring practice. Because there is something therapeutic about sitting in college football traffic. Because it's another chance to tailgate. Fans need their spring practice, too.
And because you never know, you might actually see something that matters.
Here are some Do's and Don'ts on what to expect from Saturday's Red-White “Game'':
• Don't: Expect to know at the end of the day if Nebraska will deserve a preseason top 10 ranking — which it will likely get. Schemes will be vanilla topped with vanilla wafers (Don't want to show too much — Mack Brown might be watching). Players who might develop chemistry together next season will be playing on opposite teams. As Carl Pelini said, “It's about letting the kids go out and block and tackle.''
• Do: Look to see who's got next. Saturday is about finding the next Ndamukong Suh or Phillip Dillard. Impossible? The rest of the Big 12 is counting on NU taking a step back on defense. Bo and Carl Pelini are counting on someone stepping up.
Remember last August? Bo and Carl talked about how Suh needed to elevate his game. Nobody knew Dillard was going to explode into a playmaker. Bo and Carl have said they expect the defense to be better. Much of that is based on depth and a system that develops defensive playmakers. Who will it be? You might get a hint.
• Do: Keep an eye on sophomore Sean Fisher as a guy who can fill Dillard's considerable role at Mike linebacker.
“He really stepped up this spring and came into his own,'' Carl Pelini said. “It's like the light bulb came on for him. He's been physical, he's been decisive. I really like what he's done this spring.''
• Don't: Judge Shawn Watson's 2010 offense based on what you see Saturday. Observers I know who got to watch practices this spring said Watson has drastically changed the offense. It's the Holiday Bowl offense. But Watson won't show too much. Still, wouldn't you continue to practice what you've been doing all spring? The quarterbacks will run a bunch. That much, we know.
• Do: Keep a close eye on Cody Green's comfort and confidence levels. The kid needs to execute, sure. But more than anything, he needs to have the presence and look like he belongs out there. If he shows it, that might give him the edge over Zac Lee heading into the fall.
• Don't: Expect one guy to replace Suh up front. Carl Pelini acts like he doesn't expect a huge dropoff, but it's based more on what Jared Crick and three relative newcomers will do as a group. He said junior Terrence Moore had an “exceptional spring and looks like a different player now that he's healthy.'' And Thad Randle's athleticism and speed “is going to be tough for guards to handle. You put that with Terrence and Baker (Steinkuhler) and you have a pretty good four deep there.''
• Do: Watch for Taylor Martinez's vision, cuts and acceleration. Time to find out what all the fuss is about.
• Do: Look to see where Mike McNeill lines up and what sort of routes he runs — intermediate, deep, etc.
• Don't: Expect to see a lot of “Wildcat'' Saturday. But watch to see what sort of bounce Roy Helu has in his spring step. There will be an unspoken competition between Helu and Rex Burkhead, and it will be on display.
• Do: Keep the binoculars on Eric Martin. He has potential to be a big-time playmaker at linebacker. Martin knows how to blow up somebody's helmet. But can he mind his assignments?
• Do: Keep a close watch on center Mike Caputo. The offensive line needs a new push from several people, but center is that bell-cow position. If Caputo has it down, the rest will follow.
• Don't: Forget the charcoal. Or you'll be doing stadium steps.
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