Nebraska Football 2012: 35 Cornhuskers to Watch in Fall Camp
At long last, football season is once again just around the corner and Fall Camps have begun.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers are a little more under-the-radar this preseason as compared to last year, but that doesn't mean fans aren't just as hungry to see what this team has to offer.
Here is a categorized breakdown of 35 Huskers to keep a particularly keen eye on this fall.
Rex Burkhead, RB
The most popular Husker doesn't really have much to improve upon, but you wouldn't know it by his work ethic. This fall will be all about little details, like improving open field reads, for Burkhead. Watching him hone his skills will be like watching a razor blade being sharpened.
Will Compton, MLB
Compton has proven this offseason that he can talk the talk, but will he be able to walk the walk come Sept. 1? His rapid improvement in 2011 suggests he will, but he must build on his momentum this fall.
Kyler Reed, TE
Reed was one of three Huskers to represent Nebraska at Big Ten Media Days, and he said all the right things. If he can get back to his 2010 form and produce touchdowns in bunches this year, it will say a lot for how much the passing game improves.
Kenny Bell, WR
Bell is just a sophomore, but he's considered one of the veteran leaders of the receiving corps. His job isn't in jeopardy, but he'll have to have a good spring to keep younger guys from eating into his snaps.
Spencer Long, OG
The walk-on from Elkhorn, Neb. is widely considered Nebraska's best lineman, and the Huskers will need him to play like it this year. He will likely be put on scholarship sometime during Fall Camp, assuming he has a good showing.
Cameron Meredith, DE
Meredith wasn't much more consistent than the rest of the defense last season, but his occasional flashes of dominance have Husker fans excited. His work with D-line coach Rick Kaczenski this Fall could help him double his five sacks from 2011.
Brett Maher, K/P
Brett Maher stepped into some massive shoes following Alex Henery's fourth-round selection in the NFL Draft, but he didn't miss a beat. The only thing to be concerned about with Maher is possible injury, but he may have an even stronger leg this year.
Taylor Martinez, QB
Possibly the most scrutinized Husker since Jammal Lord or even Scott Frost (it's no coincidence they are all three quarterbacks), Martinez has gotten more than his share of criticism. But he has put in a ton of work this offseason in hopes of improving his ability to operate the passing attack. This fall might tell us a lot about whether or not it has paid off.
Andrew Green, CB
Green was the scapegoat for many a Husker fan that was perturbed about the performance of Nebraska's secondary in '11 (half the reason for their struggles was the lack of a pass rush). But the light bulb seemed to flicker on for the junior towards the end of the season.
Most assume he has a starting spot on lockdown, but this year, there may be more competition at cornerback than ever before during the Pelini era. He'll need a great fall to remain a starter.
Baker Steinkuhler, DT
The legacy child came to Nebraska as a 5-star offensive line recruit with an enormous amount of potential, but he switched to defense early in his career. He has yet to fulfill his potential (he could conceivably get drafted solely on that anyway), but this is his last year to do it.
A strong Fall Camp would be nice for the best player at a relatively thin position.
Jason Ankrah, DE
Ankrah was also a highly touted recruit as a defensive end from Maryland, and his ties to John Papuchis lured him to Lincoln. The junior still has plenty of time to leave a big mark on Husker Nation, but his time is now.
Antonio Bell, CB
Bell has had a relatively disappointing career as a Husker, but in his senior year, it seems as though he is intent on making the most of it. Bo Pelini surprisingly revealed that Bell would have been a starter had they played a game right after spring ball.
A casual fan may not even know who Antonio Bell is, but expect him to get significant snaps in the cornerback rotation at the very least.
Alonzo Whaley, OLB
Whaley is another senior who is looking to cap off a let-down of a career with a bang. The 6'1", 230-pounder pulled a major 180 following a conversation with Bo Pelini that hit him like a train.
Many expect newcomer Zaire Anderson to beat Whaley out for the starting job, but don't be surprised if Whaley locks down the weak side and allows the coaches to switch Anderson over to compete with Sean Fisher for the strong side position.
The Impact Newcomers
Mohammed Seisay, CB
One of the most highly recruited junior college prospects in the nation, Seisay is a rare gem who already has Division I experience (he played at Memphis before transferring to Eastern Arizona Junior College).
His 6'2", 200 pound frame is ideal for covering larger Big Ten receivers, and he's physically ready to play immediately. In short, Seisay will have an instant impact in the secondary one way or another.
Zaire Anderson, OLB
Anderson is the other half of an impressive JUCO haul for the Huskers in 2011. Anderson is already turning heads with his surprising physicality to go along with the speed and athleticism the coaches already knew he had. If he can learn the defense quickly enough, he will be a major part of the rotation at outside linebacker at the very least.
Tommy Armstrong, QB
Armstrong is a very talented player, who dominated at the 5A level at Steele High School in Texas. However, he wasn't terribly highly recruited for whatever reason (possibly because of the sheer amount of talent that populates the state of Texas).
Regardless, he is a potential steal and even has a shot at the backup job behind Taylor Martinez right away if he learns the offense quickly (watch your back, Brion Carnes).
Imani Cross, RB
A bruiser of a back at 6'1" and 225 pounds, Cross is a physical freak who drew rave reviews in the summer, in part for doing an unbelievable 41 pull-ups during one of the workout sessions. He might be too talented to redshirt, despite the solid depth at running back.
Charles Jackson, CB
Jackson was a 2011 recruit who failed to academically qualify at UNL, but he worked hard and was able to join the fray one year later. The good news is he stayed in peak physical shape and should compete for playing time immediately. His talent is off the charts; the only potential road block will be learning the defense.
Jordan Westerkamp, WR
A record-breaking receiver from Illinois, Jordan Westerkamp will come to Nebraska with the same mindset and try to get on the field immediately. The receiving corps is deep, but it'll be hard to keep him off the field.
Michael Rose, MLB
Admittedly, it will be a bit surprising if Rose doesn't get redshirted this year. But he was one of the leaders of the 2011 class and has the talent to play. If Will Compton or Trevor Roach sustains an injury, Rose should be ready to step up.
Braylon Heard, RB
Braylon Heard was switched over to the defense last spring to relieve the logjam at running back while still utilizing Heard's talents, but the transfer of Aaron Green to TCU prompted coaches to move him back. He's still playing a little defense, though, and is talented enough to help the team at both running back and defensive back.
Jamal Turner, WR
The uber-talented Jamal Turner can do a little bit of everything for this offense. He is a budding wide receiver and is too good to keep off the field much, but he also has a great arm as a former quarterback.
He is also a very dangerous runner that is a threat to take it the distance every play. Heck, he may even be one of the starting kick returners. No matter which way you slice it, the sophomore needs to have the ball in his hands very, very often in 2012.
Justin Jackson, C
Jackson is currently battling Cole Pensick for the starting center spot, but he spent much of his career on the defensive line. It's a shame Jackson hasn't gotten more playing time, because he is always willing to help out the team and his versatility allows him to do that. 2012 may be his time.
Daimion Stafford, SS
Stafford is another JUCO success story who burst onto the scene in 2011 with a thunderous hit on a UT-Chattanooga running back. Stafford is an athletic safety who loves to hit, but this season he should be a bit more disciplined with an increased knowledge of the defense. Most are expecting big things from him in his final year.
Quincy Enunwa, WR
Enunwa is a solid receiver who posted good numbers in his sophomore season but is more known for his crushing blocks than his downfield receiving skills. Expect more of the same in 2012, plus some better receiving numbers.
Eric Martin, DE
The 6'2", 260-pound Martin is one of the team's most violent defenders, and this year, he may get more opportunities to show that. He has the potential to be a solid pass-rushing specialist, and expect him to get in some big hits along the way.
The Young and Hungry
David Santos, OLB
Santos may find it difficult to steal playing time away from guys like Alonzo Whaley, Sean Fisher and Zaire Anderson, but he has the ability to do it. The first thing you noticed about Santos out of high school was his instincts—something that he has in common with Lavonte David. A great camp will push him into the rotation.
Ameer Abdullah, RB
Ameer Abdullah broke out as an outstanding return man as a true freshman, but in 2012 he will look to find an increased role in the offense behind Rex Burkhead. The coaches would like to keep Superman fresh early on in the season, and many of the extra carries should go to Abdullah, provided he has gotten past some fumbling issues.
Taariq Allen, WR
A year before Kenny Bell became Taylor Martinez's go to receiver as a redshirt freshman, he was drawing rave reviews on the scout team and was even named MVP. In similar fashion, Allen was named scout team MVP last season and, while he has a lot more competition for playing time than Bell did, will look to get on the field and produce this year. The Huskers don't have many players with his overall skill set.
Top Position Battles
Tyler Moore vs. Brent Qvale, LT
Moore started as a true freshman for the Huskers last season, but he struggled at times. Meanwhile, Qvale reportedly had one of the best springs of any Husker. Who will protect Martinez's blind side?
Jeremiah Sirles vs. Andrew Rodriguez, RT
Jeremiah Sirles has been an off-and-on starter at tackle for two years now, while Rodriguez, a former guard, has yet to live up to his potential. Sirles has a ton of experience and should be solid and reliable, but Rodriguez has a renewed sense of urgency this offseason and could make a strong push. This will be interesting.
PJ Smith vs. Courtney Osborne, FS
Two embattled seniors fighting for one last shot, and one position to take over. Smith and Osborne are both trying to shake of inconsistency and end their careers on a good note. The battle for the spot beside fellow senior Daimion Stafford could get intense.
My money is on Smith to win the free safety job with Osborne backing up both spots, but regardless of who wins it, these three players should be able to rotate in and out without missing a beat. Nebraska's safeties have the potential to be one of the biggest surprises in the Big Ten.