The Nebraska Cornhuskers completed a strong 2013 recruiting class Wednesday as Bo Pelini signed 23 future Huskers on national signing day.
Most of these young men will now join the ranks of talented players already dawning the scarlet and cream. They will work their way through the depth chart and bide their time waiting for their moment to take center stage.
But a few of these newcomers have what it takes to make an instant impact. Their raw ability combined with a few key deficiencies on Nebraska’s current roster will give five commits opportunities to start their first season in Lincoln.
Maliek Collins, Defensive Tackle
Tre’vell Dixon, Athlete
Cethan Carter, Tight End
Finnin will have the most difficult time of all of these players finding playing time in 2013, but he has a chance.
Although Nebraska is not losing much depth from the offensive tackle positions, the returning players are nowhere close from having their starting spots secured. Brent Qvale, Jeremiah Sirles and Andrew Rodriguez certainly have the experience, but their performances indicate that the door is open for outsiders to steal playing time.
While there are decent offensive linemen dotting this Husker recruiting class, Finnin stands out as the best possible candidate for making an instant impact. His extra size and added experience at the junior college level will accelerate his development and preparation for game appearances. If nothing else, he will provide a helpful push for the veterans ahead of him on the Fall depth chart.
The Big Red has enjoyed a wealth of options at tight end for a number of years. Unfortunately, this surplus has come to an abrupt end.
Kyler Reed, Ben Cotton and Mike McNeill are all gone and Jake Long is the only remaining tight end with extensive experience. Although he likely has a firm grip on the number one spot, Greg Hart will be able to compete for playing time in the Huskers’ two tight end sets.
Cethan Carter will also have a good chance at these snaps, but Hart’s speed makes him a more likely candidate. Nebraska enjoys sending tight ends downfield in its passing game. Hart’s combination of added height and straight-line speed make him a great candidate to fill in for Reed, who made a living out of stretching defenses vertically from the tight end position.
Nebraska will experience no greater turnover at any position than linebacker after the departure of Will Compton, Alonzo Whaley and Sean Fisher.
David Santos and Zaire Anderson, who each received small amounts of playing time in 2012, are likely to take over much of the work. But they will obviously still need an addition or two to fill out the linebacking corps.
The two most likely candidates from this year’s recruiting class are Marcus Newby and Josh Banderas. While Newby’s speed may fit better with the abilities of Santos and Anderson, Banderas’ greater size could add more balance to the 2013 Husker linebackers.
The most aggravating problem that afflicted the 2012 Huskers was the prevalence of turnovers, particularly on special teams. The inability of Nebraska returners to cleanly field punts was appalling. And the worst part was that no matter who was chosen for the duty, trouble seemed to follow.
For that reason, do not be surprised if the Big Red look to new faces for special teams help in 2013. And Nathan Gerry appears to be the best man for the job.
In addition to his blistering 4.40 40-yard dash, Gerry spent much of his high school career playing wide receiver at Washington High School in Sioux Falls. If his hands are sure and his feet are as quick as advertised, Gerry could be just what Nebraska is looking for in the punt return game.
Of all Nebraska’s commits in this 2013 class, Randy Gregory stands the best chance of seeing the field this coming season. His particular skill set and the deficiencies in the Huskers’ current depth chart may be just enough to land Gregory in a starting role.
Nebraska loses Cameron Meredith, Eric Martin and Joseph Carter from its 2012 lineup. Although Jason Ankrah has a stranglehold on one defensive end position, beyond that it is anyone’s game.
Gregory enters Lincoln as one of the most heralded recruits from this class. His enormous size and his experience at the junior college level will make him an instant competitor for the other defensive end spot. And if he lives up to his ratings, there is no reason to expect anyone else to capture that vacancy.