Credit: Reese Strickland-US PRESS WIRE
Nebraska finished the Spring Practice with a very memerable Spring Game. Nebraska’s defense will need a lot of work going forward, but the offense seems to be firing on all cylanders. There are lot of interesting story lines going into the fall, but here are the top 5 storys to watch.
What Will the Offensive Line Look Like
With the loss of 3 offesnive linemen to graduation, and a lack of experiance there are several question marks still left on Nebraska’s offensive line. Aside from Spencer Long playing Gaurd and Andrew Rodriguez playing somewhere on the offensive line there isn’t any for sure spots secured at any other position on the depth chart. Long will be a preseason All-American, and will be the staple of this line. Rodriguez on the other hand has moved from guard to tackle back to guard, and more than likely back to the tackle in the fall. Redshirt junior Mark Pelini or Redshirt senior Cole Pensick will be the leading candidates for the Center position. If Pelini gets the nod at Center, Pensick may be the one of the rotating guards opposite Long. It may almost be a necessity for Rodriguez to move back to tackle. Last season both seniors Brent Qvale and Jeremiah Sirles struggled at that position.
A couple guys that could add to the depth at the tackle position this fall are Junior College transfers, 6-foot-8 David Knevel, and 6-foot-7 Matt Finnin. Knevel is a raw talent from Canada, but Finnin is a developed talent who plays with a mean streak that we have not seen out of a Nebraska offensive linemen in a long time. Both of these guys have a bright future.
Nebraska did a good job of addressing it’s biggest need with this recruiting class, the offensive line. Knevel and Finnin are two tackles who could see playing time. Long, Pelini and Pensick will be the main guys on the interior line. If any true freshman can come in and make a case for playing time early it would be Zach Hannon. The 6-foot-5, 300 lb. Missouri native will more than likely redshirt, but he will be able to compete for playing time. The redshirt may be just to save him for four years, but if injuries happen Hannon will be forced into action.
What Will Nebraska’s Defensive Line Look Like
Nebraska’s defensive line will have one returning starter in senior Jason Ankrah. Players like sophomore defensive tackle Aaron Curry and defensive end Avery Moss saw limited playing time in 2012. The underclassmen will more than likely be starters at their respected position. Curry will likely rotate with redshirt freshman Greg McMullen, and then the depth behind them is very thin. Defensive line will be the biggest need in the 2014 recruiting class.
Defensive tackle will be a more deep position than the ends. Redshirt senior Thad Randle will return but has suffered from several injuries. He will more than likely rotate with Curry, if healthy. The guy with the most buzz going into fall camp is redshirt freshman, Vincent Valentine. He and Curry will more than likely be the two starters. Who will be behind them is the biggest question mark. Guys like redshirt junior Tobi Okuyemi and redshirt sophomore Jay Guy both came into Lincoln with a lot of hype, but have not seen any playing time. They will need to contribute this year.
Who Will Be Behind Abdullah
With the departure of Braylon Heard to Kentucky, Nebraska is left with one proven running back in junior Ameer Abdullah. Sophomore Imani Cross was a serviceable big back last season in short yardage situations. Cross has lost almost 10 pounds and looked a step faster in the spring. The one player who stood out in Nebraska’s Spring Game was redshirt freshman walk-on King Frazier. Frazier’s ability to cut on a dime and hit the hole at full speed could earn him a spot in Nebraska’s rotation this fall.
Nebraska landed two very highly touted running backs in 2013. Adam Taylor from Katy, TX and Terrell Newby fromWest Hills, CA. Newby will undoubtedly get a shot at playing time this season. Taylor will more than likely redshirt. If Cross can serve as a formidable backup, Newby could be held at bay until he is needed. The one thing this coaching staff has done since arriving in Lincoln is trust one running back to carry the load. Most people feel that is the reason for the departure of players like Heard and TCU transfer Aaron Green. To keep both Newby and Taylor in Lincoln all 4 years, the coaching staff will have to get both backs involved in the offense after this season.
Who will fill Reed and Cotton’s Shoes
For four years Nebraska was set at tight end with two of the best in the country in Kyler Reed and Ben Cotton. Reed has signed with Jacksonville, and Cotton has been picked up by the Chargers. The only player who saw playing time behind Reed and Cotton was redshirt senior Jake Long. Nebraska added two talented tight ends in 2013’s recruiting class. Greg Hart from Dayton, OH. and Cethan Carter from Metairle, LA. Carter should compete for playing time early. Hart will probably redshirt. Long and Carter will more than likely be the starting tight ends.
Carter and Hart are the only tight ends on Nebraska’s roster that are not Nebraska natives.
Are the Linebackers As Good As Advertised
Nebraska returns one player with playing time at the Linebacker position in senior Zaire Anderson. Anderson saw limited time last season, and after being named a starter he tore his ACL. The thing about the injury is Anderson actually tore the ligament during the 3rd play of the game, and played still played the rest of the game. Anderson is clearly one of the toughest guys on the team. His heart and compassion showed even more during the Spring Game when Nebraska put on some of their daily drills for the crowd. Anderson tossed aside one blocker juked another, and made a tackle. No other player was able to make a tackle during, what the coaches call the “competition” drill.
Redshirt freshmen linebackers Jared Afalava, Michael Rose, and Thomas Brown were all highly touted linebackers. All 3 were redshirted last year with 4 senior linebackers with playing experience. These 4 will be in rotation with Anderson and redshirt sophomore David Santos. Nebraska’s coaching staff is going to have a hard time getting all 5 of these guys on the field. That’s a good problem to have.
By Jimmie Allen
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