Last year, several of Nebraska's talented freshmen made an impact on the field. Players like Ameer Abdullah, who won the backup running back job and dazzled Nebraska fans with his return abilities, Jamal Turner, who led all receivers for Nebraska for half a season, and Tyler Moore, who was the first true freshman offensive lineman to start for the Huskers on opening day. Moore has since left the team.
This year, Nebraska could make use of another batch of talented freshmen. Here are five names to keep an eye on during fall practice and as the first game approaches.
Jordan Westerkamp is a wide receiver from Illinois. He's fast, running a 4.5 40-yard dash, but he also has some of the best hands you will ever see. Westerkamp set records in Illinois with the most receptions, yards and touchdowns in state history.
However, Nebraska is currently loaded at receiver with players like Kenny Bell, Quincy Enunwa, Jamal Turner and Tariq Allen, as well as tight ends Kyler Reed and Ben Cotton.
But Westerkamp is one of those receivers that shouldn't be wasted. According to receivers coach Rich Fisher, Westerkamp plays with a lot of passion and believes he is going to be a great wideout. Westerkamp will have to fight for playing time, but if he gets on the field he has the chance to show his skills.
Tommy Armstrong is a quarterback from Texas, and ranked the fifth best QB in the county last year, according to Scout.
Armstrong may be a freshman, but he's already jumped right into the mix of becoming the backup quarterback. Coaches and players, like Jamal Turner and Quincy Enunwa, have both raved about Armstrong's leadership and skills.
Offensive coordinator Tim Beck remarked on how Armstrong really impressed him in fall practice, observing how fast he picked up on the offense. Add in his skills and leadership, and Armstrong may have the shot at the field this fall.
Charles Jackson is unique on this list. Jackson is not a signee from the last class, 2012, but from the year before; Jackson qualified in April and is now part of the Huskers.
Jackson has impressed his teammates and coaches with his talent and work ethic. According to Bo Pelini, "Charles is a talented young man who’s got a lot to learn. He’s really put his time in. He’s working hard at it. I think he’s going to be a really good player in time".
Jackson has earned the nickname "The Energizer Bunny" from secondary coach Terry Joseph. Why? Because he can fly around the field and puts in all his effort into every play. And according to Joseph, he is going to see the field and get a lot of snaps this year.
Vincent Valentine is one of several true freshmen defensive linemen competing for playing time. But even as a freshman, Valentine is the biggest of all Nebraska defensive linemen weighing 320 lbs.
Defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski said that he moves very well for a big guy (via Hail Varsity). And maybe that's what Nebraska needs to compete in the Big Ten. The linemen are much bigger in the Big Ten than they are in the Big 12, so a big lineman that can move very well may be just what Nebraska needs to help stop the run and get pressure on the QB.
Imani Cross is a beast. There is no other way to say it. He did 41 pull-ups and 200 push-ups in a conditioning test before fall practice, both highs for the Husker roster. Big Ten analyst Tom Dienhart said that it will be impossible to keep Cross off the field, as he already looks like an NFL running back and provides the Huskers with a change of pace from Burkhead, Abdullah and Heard.
As a senior, Cross rushed for over 1,700 yards, and averaged nine yards a carry. That is absolutely amazing. If Cross can continue that, or even only half that many yards per attempt, it would result in first downs and longer drives. Cross could be the next great Husker running back.