Nebraska Football: 5 Underclassmen Who Will Be Stars by Thanksgiving 2014
In the blink of an eye, the 2013 Nebraska football season has rushed by. This Friday, Nebraska fans will awaken from their tryptophan-induced stupor to watch NU face Iowa in the Heroes Game, cheering on the stars that have emerged this season.
But who will those fans be cheering for next year? Which Cornhusker underclassmen will make their marks and be stars this time next year?
Here are five candidates for you to consider.
This one might be a little unfair, because Gregory kind of is a star already.
But the sophomore junior college transfer has been a revelation this season, providing the kind of disruptive presence, speed and power that the Blackshirts haven’t seen since Ndamukong Suh was stalking the sidelines in Lincoln.
With another offseason of work in the gym and learning the playbook, the sky may be the limit for Gregory next year.
A true freshman, Carter was pressed into service at tight end this season due to injuries.
While he has struggled to make his mark, he has the size (6'4", 240 pounds) and athleticism to be an offensive weapon and nightmare matchup for opposing defenses. With an additional year in the weight room, and with the on-the-field experience he has gained this year, Carter could be a true breakout candidate in 2014.
Coming into the season, Nebraska’s secondary was crowded. It looked to be a tall task for any freshmen to see the field.
But as this season has worn on, Alexander has earned himself more and more playing time. He had five total tackles against Penn State, second only to Corey Cooper in terms of tackle production from the secondary for Nebraska.
It doesn’t look like there will be any less competition for playing time in the secondary next season, but Alexander’s experience in 2013 should put him in good stead for next season.
It was clear that the coaches thought Newby was special coming into this season, giving him significant playing time and putting a redshirt on fellow freshman running back Adam Taylor.
The coaches have stuck with Newby, finding designed plays to get him the ball and keeping faith even when he has made mistakes.
That suggests Newby will have the opportunity for even a bigger role next year as his body gets bigger and he gains more experience in the system. Putting Newby on the field this season felt a little like a risk with high reward.
Next season could see Newby presenting lower risk and higher reward, which is a pretty good combination.
In big-time college football, big men just take a while to develop.
So perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that the 6'3", 325-pound redshirt freshman defensive tackle has not yet been able to truly become a force on Nebraska’s defensive line.
But he has the size to fill up the middle and occupy blockers, particularly if Nebraska starts running in more three-man fronts. If Valentine is able to develop after his first full season, the big man could become a cornerstone of Nebraska’s 2014 defense.
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