In many ways for Nebraska football fans, summer is just something to endure until fall practice begins. Sure, it’s fun to cook out, swim, watch baseball and get sunburned (well, three out of four ain’t bad), but with Independence Day in the rear view mirror Nebraska fans know that fall camp isn’t far away.
This year, Nebraska will be looking to freshmen in a number of areas either to bolster depth or contribute right away. Here are five freshmen who have the chance this fall to make a big dent in Nebraska's 2013 roster.
Maurice might not be the first name you think of when considering Nebraska’s incoming freshman class. But as a defensive tackle, Maurice plays the position of Nebraska’s biggest need. Between graduation and defections, Nebraska only has six defensive tackles on the roster who are not freshmen. Of those six, senior Thad Randle has been dogged with injuries his entire career. Senior Brodrick Nickens is switching sides after playing his career on the offensive line. Juniors Jay Guy and Tobi Okuyemi have failed to impress to this point in their careers, as have sophomores Kevin Williams and Aaron Curry.
Maurice, along with fellow true freshman Maliek Collins, should have every opportunity, then, to use fall camp to make a name for themselves. While defensive tackle is one of the most difficult positions from which to make an immediate impact, given the status of the roster the chance is there.
Terrell Newby and Adam Taylor
I swear to heaven, these are two different people. You wouldn’t know it, though, given all the different times I have mentioned both of them when looking ahead to next season. Both are 4-star I-back prospects (according to 247Sports.com), and both will look to fall camp as their opportunity to make a case for playing time.
Of the two, Newby may have the slightly better chance, given his ability to be used on special teams more than Taylor. But given Bo Pelini’s history of not using redshirts on talented running backs (see Green, Aaron), don’t be surprised if a strong fall camp means both kids are on the roster this season.
Yes, a long snapper makes this list. Special teams are routinely undervalued by most fans, and Nebraska is going to have a major transition this season with its kicking game. With the departure of Brett Maher, Nebraska will be replacing both a punter and a kicker. P.J. Mangieri, Nebraska’s longtime long snapper (pardon the pun) has also graduated, as has Jase Dean, who primarily served as Nebraska’s holder last year.
That’s a lot of turnover in an area of critical importance. So having a scholarship long snapper arrive on campus and be ready for fall camp will make a big impact on Nebraska’s special teams. After all, it doesn’t matter how good the kickers are if they don’t get the ball delivered properly.
OK, this is cheating a little bit, given that Valentine is a redshirt freshman. But if there is any one player that Nebraska needs to click this fall, Valentine might be the guy as a defensive tackle. After redshirting last season, Valentine had the opportunity to take the entire year to learn Pelini’s defense. He has the body type (6’3”, 325 pounds, the second-heaviest player on Nebraska’s roster) and physical tools ideal for a defensive tackle in Pelini’s scheme, who is supposed to occupy linemen and free up the linebackers to make plays.
But, at least based on what we know now, Valentine has not yet seized a significant role on the field. If he is able to do so in fall camp, that could make a massive (again, pardon the pun) difference for Nebraska in 2013.
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