Nebraska Football: Challenges Abound for the 3 Huskers at the NFL Combine

Andrew SteierContributor IIIFebruary 22, 2013

Nebraska Football: Challenges Abound for the 3 Huskers at the NFL Combine

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    The Nebraska Cornhuskers will be represented by three outgoing seniors at the 2013 NFL Combine.  Punter/place kicker Brett Maher, safety Daimion Stafford and running back Rex Burkhead will join a host of other former college football players hoping to try their hands in the NFL.

    Each player will face a different set of challenges when they take the field in Indianapolis.

    Stafford comes off a breakout year which ended with all-conference honors that few would have predicted before the season.  Maher just finished a senior campaign full of ups and downs.  Burkhead hardly even had a senior season to speak of.

    No matter their situation, each and every one of them must now put his best foot forward over the next few days if he wants to climb the board come draft day.

Brett Maher

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    Why he can excel

    Brett Maher did not take long making Husker fans saddened by Alex Henery’s departure to completely forget about the current Philadelphia Eagles kicker.  Despite how incredible Henery performed the dual role as punter and place kicker, Maher seemed to do just as well.

    Henery eventually landed a starting role in the NFL his rookie season and has remained there ever since.  If Maher plays to his potential, there is no reason to think his career will not take a similar trajectory.

    What he must prove

    Simply, Maher must show that he can play to his potential.  After starting his career at Nebraska in stellar fashion, the punts started shanking and the field goals began swerving.

    Criticizing Maher’s play in this manner is certainly a heartless practice, because his good play would not have seemed so subpar had he not first displayed his great play.

    Unfortunately for him though, that greatness is what is required to make it as an NFL kicker.  Maher must put his best foot forward in Indy, letting NFL scouts see the enormous potential that makes him such an incredible prospect.

Daimion Stafford

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    Why he can excel

    Daimion Stafford was the undisputed leader of the Husker secondary all year, primarily due to his big-play ability.

    Stafford plays with incredible intensity and determination which often translates into timely throttling hits and momentous takeaways.  This ability to be a difference-maker in close contests will make him a very attractive option for NFL teams looking to bolster their corps of defensive backs.

    What he must prove

    Scouts have already had ample opportunity to watch defensive backs in real game situations.  The NFL combine will now provide scientific measures of athleticism that will allow for direct comparisons between prospects.

    Truth be told, Stafford was a little suspect in open-field tackling situations, particularly against Wisconsin his last time in Indianapolis.

    Daimion Stafford needs to post some solid numbers in the coming days.  He needs to prove that the few lapses he had in his senior season were just that—momentary lapses—and not an indication of athletic shortcomings.

Rex Burkhead

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    Why he can excel

    There may be too many reasons to list here, particularly because I have already gone on at length on this subject.

    But to summarize, Burkhead brings a lot to the table. 

    He has the mentality that would make any coach drool as he brings experience in a multi-back system, a strong work ethic and lacks the diva complex that runs rampant through NFL locker rooms. 

    Physically, he has all the tools, from his speed in the open field to his power between the tackles.

    What he must prove

    There are really two main obstacles which Burkhead must overcome in order to make a splash in the upcoming draft.

    First, he needs to establish his name.  Suggesting that NFL scouts would fail to find a prospect from a school like Nebraska is just ludicrous.  After all, Miles Austin and Tony Romo have made brilliant careers from humble collegiate beginnings.  But there is still no denying that Le’Veon Bell and Montee Ball are stealing the headlines from the Big Ten Conference’s combine contingent.

    Second, and probably more importantly, Burkhead needs to dispel any concerns about his propensity for injuries.  If there is one thing NFL teams dislike more than paying running backs to stand the sidelines in street clothes, it is paying rookie, unproven running backs to stand the sidelines in street clothes.

    The timetable for Burkhead to make a full recovery is obviously not going to change to accommodate the NFL combine’s schedule.  Performing unaffected by his nagging injury would do well to rid the scouts of that concern.