Drag your finger down the Nebraska football roster and you will be stopping quite often at the name of a player who has yet to take part in a college football game at Memorial Stadium.
The annual Red-White scrimmage Saturday isn’t quite Nebraska-Ohio State on a Saturday in October, but there’s some good to be gained by a number of Husker redshirt freshmen or true freshmen.
“It’s almost like a first-game experience,” said NU junior receiver Tim Marlowe, thinking back to 2009. “My freshman year, after I got redshirted, that was my first time actually getting to play in Memorial Stadium in a live situation. I played pretty good that day, and it was just a great feeling to see the fans cheering for you. It really just prepares you for what’s to come.”
Plenty of eyes will be on players such as Kenny Bell, Brion Carnes, Jake Cotton, Corey Cooper, Tyler Moore and Jamal Turner. Perhaps even more than on some of the veterans that most NU fans already know about.
“They get a chance to go out there and play in front of that environment,” offensive coordinator Tim Beck said, “and it’s a good warmup to some degree of knowing what it’s going to be like without the coaches being on the field, and being out there on their own.”
In all, the NU roster lists 36 redshirt or true freshmen.
“It’s their first opportunity to actually play in front of those people,” junior tight end Ben Cotton said. “It’s an adrenaline pump. And I think once you get on the field and get into the flow of things, it becomes more of a reality. You know, ‘I’m here, and I need to make the best of this opportunity while I’m here.’ ”
Both Cotton and Marlowe said they first experienced NU spring games as part of recruiting visits during their senior years in high school.
“There was 79,000 people here, I think,” Marlowe said. “I mean, that’s unbelievable.”
Marlowe was referring to 2008, when a school-record 80,149 turned out for head coach Bo Pelini’s first year. NU has followed with spring game crowds of 77,670 and 77,936.
“I think the fans really get excited because without football for two, three months they’re all freaking out and they’re just itching to get back out there,” Marlowe said. “I just think the spring game is just something in the offseason for the fans to just check and see how their team’s doing. It’s kind of like an update for them.”