You think you’re excited for the Red-White Spring Game on Saturday at Memorial Stadium?
Imagine if you were coming to the game and then jumping headlong into the Nebraska football program a few weeks later.
For players like Beatrice tight end Cameron Jurgens, defensive back Cam Taylor (Montgomery, Alabama), defensive end Tate Wildeman (Parker, Colorado) and several others, joining the team is so close and yet so far away. They sense the energy around the program — it permeates group messages and social media — and are excited to see it manifested in front of 90,000 fans. But they also know that, in a matter of weeks, they’ll be actively participating.
“We talk a lot about the future and everybody’s pretty excited to get up there,” said Jurgens, a four-star tight end prospect who verbally committed to NU more than 2½ years ago. “It sounds like a lot of people are coming to the spring game so we’ll be able to get together and hang out and then in a few weeks we’ll all be together again.”
Indeed, the consensus from a few members of the class is that about 8-10 signees will be on hand to watch the sold-out spring game. That list also includes defensive end Casey Rogers (Avon, Connecticut) and Cam’Ron Jones (Mansfield, Texas) among others.
“Everybody is so excited about the game, man, I just want to see what it’s all about,” said Taylor, a three-star prospect who played quarterback for Park Crossing High.
“Shoot, it’s just a spring game, a team-on-team scrimmage, and 90,000 people are going to be there,” Rogers marveled. “That doesn’t show anything more than how much they love and care about Nebraska football.”
Signed players attend spring games across the country every year, but this is a unique weekend in Lincoln. Eight of 24 enrolled early, but only three others used their official visits on a fall weekend. The other 13 (and 16 of 24 overall) didn’t visit officially until the winter, after head coach Scott Frost and his staff moved from Central Florida to Lincoln. That means many have never seen Memorial Stadium full.
Jurgens has a wealth of experience in that department, and he’s been lending advice. During a recent conversation with early enrollees Will Farniok and Adrian Martinez, Jurgens said Martinez wondered if perhaps fewer people than expected show up because of rain in Saturday’s forecast.
“I was like, ‘I would bet it’s still going to be packed no matter what the weather is,’” Jurgens laughed. “I think some of the guys don’t understand how crazy Husker fans are.”
They will soon.
Jurgens said he moves to Lincoln in late May. Others will arrive in early June. Two months after the game, they’ll be full-on into summer workouts, steaming toward fall camp.
For now, though, time is dragging.
Rogers actually graduated from high school last spring. He wraps up his postgraduate year on May 27 and is going to try to be in Lincoln by May 29.
Lamented Taylor, “My teachers keep telling me, ‘Two weeks left,’ this and that, but these two weeks have been very long.”
Consider this weekend, then, a drink of water on a trek across the desert. At least they get a taste of football.
Some, like Taylor and Jurgens, said they’d be watching their respective positions closely. All of them will also pitch in on the recruiting front.
“I think I’m going to stay more in the recruiting path,” Wildeman said. “I’m going to try to get some of those 2019 guys and kind of get them going and get them excited about what we have going on.”
Jones on Twitter said this week, “We about to get that 2019 recruiting class jumping this weekend.”
For many, it will be the first trip back to Lincoln since their official visits. Jurgens is recovering from ankle surgery, has not participated in track and is not going to attempt to defend his shot put and discus state titles — “I’m not sure if I really want to mess with that ankle before the summer,” he said — leaving him with plenty of time to attend practice the past three Saturdays.
“It’s a night-and-day difference,” the 6-foot-4, 240-pounder observed. “I liked the old staff a lot, but this new staff, the way they’re doing things is making guys better. You can see people are in better shape already.”
That marks part of the challenge for these signees in attendance. Several of their classmates are already off and running in their college careers. It’s of course possible that several of the summer arrivals could see the field as true freshmen, but the learning curve will be even steeper.
“I see the team in spring ball and I see that they’re getting going, and it’s just like, 'Dang,' I just really want to get going as well," Rogers said. "I’m really jealous, actually. I wish I could throw on some pads and go out there and play with them.”
That’s another part of the weekend. Maybe the most important part.
“I won’t say it’s for fun anymore,” Taylor said. “It’s not like the recruiting process, it’s really about getting ready to go up there and do the exact same things (that they’re doing). So I’m going to be paying attention.
“It’s more important now than just the recruiting process. It’s actually here.”
Well, almost here.