Spring Game Photo No. 6

Casey Thompson (11) prepares to throw the ball during the Red-White Scrimmage at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, April 9, 2022, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

It’s always a difficult exercise to glean anything significant from what ultimately is an exhibition, and Nebraska football’s annual Red-White Scrimmage on Saturday afternoon was no exception.

Mounting injuries from weeks of spring practice led to head coach Scott Frost shifting the format of the contest from two traditional teams to an offense vs. defense affair. That, combined with the fact that Nebraska’s starters only played for a half, leaves sorting through individual performances from the Huskers’ last action of the spring a difficult affair.

Still, Frost and company ultimately accomplished what it set out to do. The team played a successful, injury-free exhibition in front of over 50,000 fans eager to get a glimpse of a new-look Nebraska squad. Several Nebraska players stepped up and delivered a quality performance in the showcase, while others left a bit to be desired entering a crucial summer of work.

Here’s a few from each category following the Red-White Scrimmage:

Anthony Grant, RB

In what projects to be a crowded running back room, junior Anthony Grant made his case to serve as the team’s starter with a solid performance on Saturday.

Grant produced perhaps the highlight of the afternoon in the first half, dodging and weaving for a 60-yard touchdown run for the offense’s first points of the afternoon. The obvious caveat is that Grant’s scamper came in the non-contact portion of the game, but his much-discussed vision and open-field ability was on display all afternoon.

Earlier in the contest, Grant picked up a first down on a 15-yard catch-and-run in which he evaded multiple defenders without being touched.

The rest of Grant’s day was ultimately uneventful, totaling 69 yards on six carries with an aforementioned one reception for 15 yards. Grant finished second on the team in total rushing yards, with freshman running back Trevin Luben posting a game-high 91 yards on eight carries.

Grant cementing himself as one of the team’s lead runners while also posting an impressive touchdown run makes him one of Saturday’s clear winners.

Garrett Nelson and Jimari Butler, LB

Nebraska’s edge rushers fared extremely well on Saturday, consistently generating pressure in the first half on whichever quarterback was in the backfield.

Two in particular that had strong efforts were freshman outside linebacker Jimari Butler and junior outside linebacker Garrett Nelson. The pair accounted for all three of the defense’s sacks on the afternoon, all coming in the first half, displaying an impressive propensity to blow by the Huskers’ offensive tackles in the process.

Nelson in particular looked sharp, using a combination of speed, power and elusiveness to get in the backfield on nearly every snap. If the spring game was any indication, the Scottsbluff, Nebraska native appears ready to continue his impressive form from a season ago. Both of his tackles in the contests were sacks.

Butler, meanwhile, was one of the surprises of the exhibition with six total tackles, three individual tackles and a sack. He, like Nelson, looked extremely sharp and threatening in the pass rush. Based on his performance on Saturday, Butler will most definitely be a player to monitor in the fall.

AJ Rollins, TE

The general state of Nebraska’s tight end room was a large reason why the offense-defense format was put into place for Saturday’s contest.

At least four Husker tight ends picked up some form of injury during spring practice and were unavailable to play in Saturday’s game, which presented an opportunity for some of the more unheralded faces in the room to make an impact. On Saturday, that player was freshman tight end AJ Rollins.

The former Creighton Prep product hauled in a game-high four catches for 39 yards. His highlight of the afternoon came in the second quarter. Freshman quarterback Chubba Purdy lifted a ball towards the sidelines on an out route, and Rollins snagged the ball over two defenders.

Between that grab and his consistent showing as a security valve for Nebraska’s quarterbacks, Rollins’ performance on Saturday elevated his case to be a part of the Huskers’ tight end rotation in 2022.

Now, here’s some players that need to show more following Saturday’s contest:

Chase Contreraz and Gabe Heins, K

The Huskers’ special teams performance was largely uninspiring on Saturday, all things considered.

Sophomore kicker Gabe Heins and junior kicker Chase Contreraz each missed a kick in the contest from different distances. Heins missed his first boot of the afternoon, an extra point attempt in the third quarter, but did come back to drill his next two to finish the afternoon 2-of-3.

Contreraz, meanwhile, easily converted a 26-yard field goal early in the second quarter before badly missing a 42-yard field goal in the same frame. He also converted his lone extra point attempt.

It’s unclear if either will be in consideration for Nebraska’s starting kicker position in the fall, but special teams gaffes have become a worrying trend in Frost’s tenure, and the continuation of said mistakes is disconcerting.

Nebraska’s starting wide receiving group

All in all, Saturday was a quiet outing for Nebraska’s leading group of wide receivers.

Senior wide receivers Oliver Martin and Omar Manning, junior wide receiver Trey Palmer and sophomore wide receiver Alante Brown, all predicted to be significant contributors to Nebraska’s offense in 2022, failed to make much of an impact in the scrimmage. The group combined for just four catches for 42 yards, with Manning not receiving a legitimate target in the contest.

This is due to the fact Nebraska’s quarterbacks largely failed to connect with receivers on the outside, completing 24-of-49 passes. However, at least in one instance, the Husker receivers could’ve done more to boost the offense’s overall production. For example, Martin failed to haul in a deep ball from sophomore quarterback Logan Smothers in the second quarter that would’ve gone down as a 20-plus yard gain.

Nebraska’s lead receivers will undoubtedly rise to the challenge once the season begins, but for now their performance on Saturday left a fair bit to be desired.