Athlon Sports is giving Husker football quite a bit of love these days. First, Randy Gregory and Ameer Abdullah were named to its second team All-America list. Now, sophomore defensive tackle Vincent Valentine has been named one of the top 20 defensive players on the rise for the upcoming season.
It’s hard to argue Gregory and Abdullah’s nods, but it’s just as difficult to debate Valentine’s place among players such as Southern California’s Su’a Cravens and Ole Miss’ Robert Nkemdiche.
The former was recruited hardcore by the Big Red while the latter was ranked as the No. 1 recruit of the entire 2013 recruiting class.
While last season was hard to stomach for fans on a few levels, one major positive was the development taking place under the helmet of No. 98.
He stepped onto the field under Memorial Stadium’s lights as a starter for the first time against Wyoming still questioning himself. That was only magnified when all Husker defenders were made to look the fool against UCLA, especially the young ones, but that comes with the territory.
You start, you lose, you learn and Big Vince certainly did that.
He matured as the season went on and by the time Iowa came to town, the final score wasn’t pleasant for Husker football fans, but everything was clicking for Valentine.
In one year’s time, he went from the young gun with unlimited potential to Gregory’s partner in crime. Thanks to his offseason work ethic, he’s become just as much of an exciting defender as No. 44. Best of all is his ability to play tackle or nose guard and do so very effectively.
“It’s definitely more double-teams inside there,” Valentine told the Omaha World-Herald following last year’s game against Southern Mississippi. “But I enjoy it. I’m a big body. I know what they want me to do. Just clog up everything and make everything bounce outside.”
He’s every bit the classic Big Ten defensive lineman and Athlon pegged another Cornhusker correctly. Watch Valentine in 2014 and see if you don’t come away with a new appreciation for an already disruptive force that has plenty of upside left before he hits his ceiling.
If he has one.
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Tags: Nebraska Cornhuskers