The time is now for the guy they call Ace.
Not literally right now. A good spring won't mean much in the grand scheme of things if a good fall doesn't follow, but the spring has been good for fifth-year senior outside linebacker Alex Davis.
“Alex was around the ball a lot last year and he had opportunities to make a lot of plays last year, got a lot of snaps, and sometimes the plays were there to be had and he just didn’t quite make them," Scott Frost said earlier this spring. "Starting to see him make those plays this year in spring ball. We need him to be a player for us so hopefully he continues on the trajectory he’s on because he looks a lot different this spring than he did last fall, in a good way.”
Here's at least part of what Frost (presumably) is talking about. Davis, a converted defensive end (he made that switch in 2017), played in all 12 games last fall and had five tackles. Three came on the road against Wisconsin, another on the road against Ohio State (and the fifth on special teams). He has always possessed impressive size (6-5, 255) and an intriguing backstory as a former basketball player who, at the time he committed to Nebraska, was very much still learning the game of football.
He was raw, yes, but Mike Riley's staff, trying to put together the always-tough transition class, saw enough to offer him in January 2015 and take Davis from a guy with Sun Belt and AAC offers to a player with a Power 5 offer under his belt. (Pittsburgh was also in, too.) It was a high-upside play. If you don't land Davis at that time, the scholarship perhaps goes unused. And if Davis, who had show enough flashes to earn an offer from Nebraska, develops with the freedom to really focus on football maybe NU has a major win on its hands.
It's still not too late for that. The ceiling for Davis, in my mind, is still one of a guy who "learned" the game of football at the college level and parlayed it into a rising draft stock. It's uncommon but not unheard of, and probably not the preferred path for the coaching staff that signed him. (You'd rather have more of those gains for yourself.) But a big 2019 could put Davis somewhere close to that. An average 2019 would mean that the five-year investment didn't provide a huge windfall.
We won't be able to make that determination after Saturday's game, but the prospect of it will have me watching Davis closely. There's still a lot of potential here. For what it's worth, Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook once raved to me about Davis's character and approach to the task at hand. (He'd been over to the Cook household for dinner.) Based on that, I don't doubt that he's put in the time to maximize his ability. It's still just a matter of his ability surpassing the relatively late start he had in the game.
And that makes Davis––on Saturday, yes, but beyond that even––pretty fascinating to me. So, he's going on the Spring Game Short List as well.
The Grab Bag
- The injury list for Nebraska might be long ahead of Saturday’s spring game.
- That said, we’re still going to play some football with some jobs (as always) on the line.
- Greg Smith puts in a prediction for a key member for the Huskers’ 2020 class.
- New Mailbag is spring-game heavy.
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.