I went into this latest edition of spring football at Nebraska pretty interested in gawking at the Huskers’ secondary. Nebraska returned three starters from 2016, but there were so many young and talented options in the mix that it seemed like the Huskers could get a little creative in the back four if they chose to do so.
Nebraska did choose to do so on Thursday, the Huskers’ final practice before spring break. It was a good day for the secondary, but don’t let the interceptions distract you from the most intriguing practice nugget.
Senior cornerback Joshua Kalu took some snaps at safety. Coach Mike Riley explained that move this way.
“You’ve seen him play nickel. What we’re looking at, when you look at the big picture of our team and the secondary, is where he might best fit and where we might find the best strength. It’s a look-see at him playing safety,” Riley said.
Putting Kalu at safety allowed sophomore Lamar Jackson to slide in at corner. That’s not an accident nor is it insignificant, even if it’s only in the testing stage at this point.
NFLDraftScout.com has Kalu ranked as the 35th-best senior cornerback entering the 2017 season. He’s started all 26 games of the Riley era at either corner or nickelback. If there were two positions on the Huskers’ defense in 2017 where you would’ve thought, “well, Nebraska doesn’t have to worry about that,” it would’ve been both cornerback spots with Kalu and fellow senior Chris Jones returning.
But that relative security can also offer some flexibility. Coaches recruit players like Jackson, a 4-star prospect, with the hope that they’ll disrupt the depth chart and force you to find a way to get them on the field one day.
That day was yesterday for Nebraska. At least for one day. We’ll see if this sticks, but a starting secondary of Jones-Aaron Williams-Kalu-Jackson sounds pretty enticing. We’ll see if it looks that way on the field if the Huskers continue to give Kalu a “look-see” at safety.
Here’s more on the secondary’s strong day and other notes from Thursday’s practice.
Tweets of the Tournament (So Far)
The tournament is such a big, sprawling event that it’s one that can benefit from Twitter. Sure, there are a lot “my bracket is trash” tweets (though maybe not as many yesterday as things played out largely to form), but there are also some gems out there.
Here are a few I noticed:
For only the 2nd time ever (2005) since field expanded to 64 in 1985, every Thursday 1st round game was decided by 20 or fewer points.
— David Worlock (@DavidWorlock) March 17, 2017
People tend to judge the “goodness” of a tournament on upsets and buzzer-beaters. Only one of the former and none of the latter on Thursday, but you had a bunch of games that remained pretty close. I’ll take that.
ESPN Tournament Challenge w record 18.8 million bracket entries, up by nearly half from last year's 13 million. UNC top pick for title
— Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBG) March 16, 2017
In case you were wondering what you’re up against in ESPN’s Tournament Challenge. This number is very encouraging, however, if you like to use the picks over at ESPN as a representative sample of the public at large. (Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. Say no more.)
— Northwestern Basketball (@NUMensBball) March 17, 2017
Here’s Northwestern basketball coach Chris Collins trying to deliver a measured post-game talk about preparation after he led Northwestern to its first tournament win in the school’s first tournament game in history. Then Pat Fitzgerald interrupts to go all aggro-football coach cliche.
The Grab Bag
- How about the stones on Indiana basketball, firing its head coach right before the sport’s marquee day? Pat Forde details how none of his sources were saying (as late as Wednesday) that Tom Crean was going to get the axe.
- Will Leitch writes that watching the NCAA Tournament has never been better.
- Gil Brandt liked what he saw from Tommy Armstrong Jr.’s numbers at pro day this week.
- Mike Babcock previews the Huskers’ weekend series with College of Charleston.
Today’s Song of Today
Ireland’s best rock band. That’s what I think. You too?
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.