We’ve already discussed the freshmen Nebraska football fans should be excited to see in 2013.
Now it’s time to take a look at the guys currently on the roster who are set to become big names. These are guys who have been on the roster but who have yet to break into the starting lineup and have meaningful production. I’ll call them my Go-Time Guys, because now it’s go time for them to step up and make an impact.
When Turner arrived on campus two years ago, everyone thought he was going to be the next big thing. Would he push Taylor Martinez at quarterback? Would his lightning speed be a game-changer?
While he started strong, Turner struggled some in the transition from quarterback to receiver, and Kenny Bell passed him as the true No. 1 threat at wideout.
But coming in to his junior year, we are seeing a more mature (and more verbal) Turner. If his maturity has matched his considerable skill set, then Turner could very well be Nebraska’s biggest breakout player of 2013.
Anderson showed up as a junior college transfer last season and looked to follow in Lavonte David’s footsteps by making an instant impact. While he showed flashes of athletic talent, Anderson only got three games before his 2012 season was ended with a knee injury.
With an extra year to learn the program and to heal his knee, look for Anderson to be the kind of defensive playmaker in the middle of the field Nebraska has been lacking.
Cooper’s size (6’1”, 210 pounds) and athletic gifts have long made him a player Nebraska coaches wanted on the field. They even tried Cooper at cornerback for one game, a move that wasn’t suited to his skill set and did not end well.
But it showed the kind of determination the coaches had to get Cooper on the field. And this year, with the amount of inexperience on defense, Cooper’s contribution (especially at safety, a critical position in Bo Pelini’s defense) could be the most unheralded and important in 2013.
It doesn’t get much better for a wideout converted to a defensive back than to get a game-clinching interception right out of the gates. But that is what Jean-Baptiste did with his interception against Ohio State in 2011.
Now, as a senior, Jean-Baptiste is one of the elder statesmen of Nebraska’s secondary. With positions up for grabs, including Andrew Green moving at least part time to safety, the cornerback role is wide open. Now that Jean-Baptiste has had two full offseasons as a defensive back, 2013 could very well be the time when he stands out and makes his claim for glory.
The tight end has always been an unheralded security blanket for Nebraska’s offense. Other than one mystifying season where Mike McNeill was almost entirely ignored, Nebraska has been ahead of the curve in terms of using the tight end as a down-the-field offensive weapon.
With the departure of Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed, many Nebraska fans assume there will be a dip in production from that spot in 2013. But Jake Long, a senior, looks poised to continue the tradition of productive and dangerous tight ends. He has game experience and has the frame (6’4”, 240 pounds) to be dangerous.
Plus, he’s an absolute monster in my NCAA Football 14 dynasty, which is almost always a great predictor of real-life success.
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