The crown jewel of Nebraska’s spring football calendar, the annual Red-White scrimmage in Memorial Stadium, kicks off on April 9.
Due to several injuries on both sides of the football, chances are there will be insufficient players to fill out two rosters for a traditional two-team scrimmage. If that can’t happen, Saturday’s game will be an offense vs. defense format, a format the Huskers have used in the past.
“I don’t like that, I’d rather have two teams going against each other trying to win a football game,” Nebraska head coach Scott Frost said at Monday’s media availability. “We just have so many guys that are nicked up that it’s gonna make it hard to field two teams without guys running back and forth.”
Frost noted that the format would be finalized over the next two days, and if it were at all possible he would want the traditional Red vs. White scrimmage format to continue. If not, Frost said he still wants to have a game that is fun for the fans.
The main component Frost is looking for on Saturday is consistency on both sides of the ball, particularly progress on the offense learning the new system from offensive coordinator Mark Whipple.
While the full arsenal of Whipple’s offense will not be on display, Nebraska fans will still get to see a glimpse of what the fall has in store.
“A lot of the stuff we’re going to be doing now isn’t on tape, so we certainly don’t want to show any of our cards,” Frost said. “But there'll be some fun things out there. Guy’s are gonna wanna compete and run the plays and defenses. We’ll find a balance.”
“I think we just brought swag to the team,” sophomore defensive back and Arizona State transfer Tommi Hill said about his fellow new arrivals at Monday’s media availability. “The team already had swag, we just brought some more swag and competitiveness.”
The staff and players have confidence in the new transfers. One new name that’s been praised heavily is junior wide receiver and LSU transfer Trey Palmer. Palmer followed new wide receivers coach Mickey Joseph to Nebraska, and is competing to start at wide receiver and kick returner this season.
Particularly, the energy and confidence of Palmer have caught the attention of Frost so far.
“[Palmer] came into the huddle one time earlier in the spring during a two-minute drill and said ‘just throw me a deep ball and this thing will be over,’” Frost said. “Two plays later we threw him a deep ball and it was over.”
The confidence comes naturally for Palmer, who has already adjusted to his new environment and new group of receivers. He describes himself as a “dog,” a commendable term that was also used by Hill to describe Nebraska’s receivers, including senior Oliver Martin.
Part of Palmer’s ease of adjustment is the familiarity with Joseph from their days at LSU. At one practice, Joseph got on Palmer about a mistake he made, and Palmer responded by taking a kickoff for a touchdown two plays later.
He described him and Joseph’s relationship as a father-son bond, and Palmer said he uses his experience in the system to help coach the younger players in the group. Palmer also relishes his competition with the defensive backs in practice to help them improve as well.
“I’m a competitor. We talk trash, and we get better every day,” Palmer said at Monday’s media availability. “Like ‘hey bro, I did this because you did that,’ helping each other out as we still compete.”
The defensive back room has the most new faces of any position group on the team. Transfer portal additions like Hill and junior Northern Iowa transfer Omar Brown are competing for spots alongside junior college transfer sophomores DeShon Singleton and Javier Morton.
Singleton is competing for a safety spot, alongside experienced sophomore safety Myles Farmer and sophomore defensive back Marques Buford Jr.
“Safety is like the quarterback of the defense. That means you’ve got a lot of checks,” Singleton said at Monday’s media availability. “So you gotta recognize that and give it to your corner and your linebacker.”
Singleton was at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, a school he described as a big culture shock coming from Louisiana. The food and the weather in the Midwest took a lot of getting used to, but he has found a community of fellow southerners in the defensive back room at Nebraska, making the transition easier.
His journey in junior college was described as a “blessing in disguise” after he struggled to get recruiting offers out of high school due to injuries and the COVID-19 pandemic. The Blue Dragons were his only offer out of high school, and he used that opportunity to bet on himself and land at a Power Five school.
“Everything is different. It’s like they [are] living lavish over here. Facilities [are] way better,” Singleton said. “A lot of coaches, strength coaches, at JUCO we didn’t have that.”
The pandemic also played a role in Hill’s transfer to Nebraska.
After he couldn’t visit campus due to the pandemic, Hill’s choices for college were narrowed down to Arizona State and Florida State. After putting his name in the transfer portal, Hill finally visited Nebraska.
Now at Nebraska, Hill is open to any role, whether it’s in the secondary or on special teams.
“In college and NFL special teams is the most important part,” Hill said. “If I can’t make the field I’ll probably be on the field in special teams and do work there.”
Another transfer expected to make an impact is Florida State and New Mexico Military Institute transfer junior running back Anthony Grant.
Grant has impressed in practice, being “gone” as soon as he hits the gap according to Hill. He credits his early success to the work he’s put in with new running backs coach Bryan Applewhite.
“He really wants us to be the best backs in the nation and I feel like we can do that,” Grant said at Monday’s media availability. “We’re working hard and getting everything together and executing what we gotta execute.”
Grant says he expects to play from the start, in whatever capacity he is needed. He noted his shiftiness as an aspect that will help him stand out, and describes the competitive nature of the room as raising the standards for the group.
Right now, the focus is on getting ready for Saturday’s exhibition, where Grant and his other newcomers will have their first chance to make a name for themselves in front of the Husker faithful.