Nebraska football fans, like all college football fans, have become accustomed to looking toward the future. As players graduate and move on, freshmen arrive on campus, refresh the roster, and provide new heroes for the Children of the Corn to cheer on autumn Saturdays.
With a successful recruiting class and a crop of redshirt freshman ready to contribute, Nebraska has a wealth of young talent on its roster. Here are the freshman most likely to make an impact, not through the course of their career, but next year.
Vincent Valentine (DT)
Nebraska has a number of areas with question marks going into the 2013. But the biggest question mark area is at defensive tackle. With no returning starters and a lack of proven talent coming through the ranks, there is an opportunity for an early impact.
As a redshirt freshman, Valentine may be best positioned to take advantage of that opportunity. Yes, it is difficult for freshmen to make an impact at defensive tackle. But the opportunity will clearly be there for Valentine to take his shot.
Thomas Brown (LB)
Much like at defensive tackle, there will be tremendous opportunity for playing time at linebacker in 2013. With no returning starters, there will be a real jockeying for dominance at the position in the starting lineup.
While Nebraska has three true freshmen that will look to get playing time, look for an impact player like Brown to get the most playing time. As a redshirt freshman, his year in the system will give him an advantage in terms of knowing Bo Pelini’s system. And his specific skill set, particularly in penetrating an opposing backfield, is something that will be particularly needed next season.
Gabe Miller (LS)
OK, this one might be a little soft. But let’s face it, Nebraska wouldn’t be using a scholarship on a designated long snapper unless the coaching staff felt he was ready to step in and contribute right away. Look for Miller to be a starter at long snapper—a position far underrated in terms of importance—from day one.
Terrell Newby / Adam Taylor (RB)
Yes, it does look like Newby and Taylor are remarkable talents. But with Ameer Abdullah and Imani Cross already on the roster, and with the emergence of King Frazier, Pelini may be presented with the opportunity to correct a mistake he made with his last crop of running backs in Aaron Green, Braylon Heard and Abdullah.
This time, perhaps Pelini will consider a redshirt for one of those running backs.
And that potential for a redshirt diminishes the chances of both Newby and Taylor seeing the field. Will one of them play an important role in 2013? Probably. But it is very difficult at this point to know which one, or whether it may in fact be both.
Jordan Westerkamp / Alonzo Moore (WR)
For different reasons, Westerkamp and Moore look very promising at wideout. Westerkamp looks like a polished route runner with good hands, while Moore has great speed and elusiveness. Both receivers have the potential to be dangerous weapons for Nebraska.
But right now, both of them have to deal with Kenny Bell, Jamal Turner and Quincy Enunwa in front of them on the depth chart. Both Westerkamp and Moore will get their chances but, barring injury, Nebraska’s depth at wide receiver will limit their opportunities in 2013.
If you’d like to contact Patrick to schedule an interview, provide feedback or get advice on which type of chocolate goes best with fresh fruit (spoiler alert: dark), send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or, you could always...Follow @patrickrunge.