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Nebraska Football: 4 Former Blue-Chippers Who Will Finally Shine in 2014

Erin SorensenContributor IMay 19, 2014

Nebraska Football: 4 Former Blue-Chippers Who Will Finally Shine in 2014

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    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    The 2014 NFL draft has come and gone. With it, a slew of new opportunities have opened up for Nebraska's former blue-chippers.

    Typically, top recruits find early playing time for the Cornhuskers. However, there are the occasional blue-chippers that hang around waiting for the opportunity to step up and shine.

    For a few players, that time is now.

    While a couple of the listed players have seen playing time already for Nebraska, they haven't fully reached their potential. That's what makes 2014 their year.

    Which former high school standouts are poised to shine for the Huskers in 2014?

    Take a look at the four former blue-chippers that have a chance to step up and make their mark for Nebraska come fall.

Imani Cross

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    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    Imani Cross was considered a 4-star running back from Gainesville, Georgia. Since his arrival at Nebraska, fans have known the I-back is a standout player. He just hasn't had that real breakthrough moment yet.

    That can be blamed a bit on star I-back Ameer Abdullah, though. The senior has handled most of the workload for the Huskers, which has made it challenging for other players to shine. However, that's starting to change for Cross.

    With Abdullah sitting out the annual spring game, Cross had the opportunity to step up and did just that. By the end of the spring scrimmage, Cross had 100 yards and two touchdowns on six carries.

    Needless to say, Cross made a statement. While he may not take the top spot from Abdullah in 2014, he's poised to shine. Nebraska has always been a fan of rotating I-backs and challenging opposing defenses with fresh sets of legs. That's exactly where Cross will step up for the Huskers.

    Expect Abdullah to shine in 2014, but don't plan on Cross being left in the dust. If anyone has the opportunity to make a big impact this fall, it's Cross.

Terrell Newby

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    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    Terrell Newby was a 4-star recruit from West Hill, California. According to Brian Rosenthal of the Lincoln Journal Star, he had people talking early last fall.

    Newby joins the list of blue-chippers who have a chance to shine alongside Cross because Nebraska's I-backs look potent for 2014. That means Newby is also poised to step up for the Huskers.

    Nedu Izu of The Daily Nebraskan wrote that Newby proved to be an asset in 2013, and he looks set to replicate that in 2014—except his role should be much bigger this year.

    Abdullah may be the top guy at the I-back position, but that's not preventing Newby and Cross from shining like they did during the spring game. With a strong force of I-backs, Nebraska is set to wreak havoc on opposing defenses come fall.

    Newby will play a major factor this fall in keeping Abdullah healthy and moving the Nebraska offense forward.

    He may be competing with other players, but it's almost less of a competition and more of a team effort. When one shines, they all will shine.

    With just about 100 days until the season begins, it looks like Newby's time to step up.

Michael Rose

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    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    Michael Rose was a 4-star inside linebacker out of Kansas City, Missouri. He had a solid 2013, which might make some say he's already shining for Nebraska.

    That's true, but Rose has even more potential ahead of him.

    In 2013, Rose recorded an impressive 66 tackles as a freshman. Of those, 40 came in the final four regular-season games for Nebraska. It seems like a done deal that he'd keep his starting spot, right?

    Up until Josh Banderas was arrested with a felony theft charge, the competition for who would start at middle linebacker was heating up. In fact, many assumed the two would battle it out in fall camp. That's still possible, but Banderas' future is in question.

    What that means for Rose is that he must keep working to improve, because with or without Banderas, the competition for Nebraska's linebackers is fierce. With that said, Rose has the experience, so he's poised to make a big impact for the Huskers.

    After a pretty strong 2013, it's Rose's time to shine. If he managed 66 tackles as a freshman, there's no telling what he could do this fall.

Paul Thurston

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    Paul Thurston at Center
    Paul Thurston at Center247Sports.com

    Paul Thurston was a 4-star offensive tackle out of Arvada, Colorado. Now he's competing with Mark Pelini for the starting center spot on the offensive line.

    At present, the Omaha World-Herald suggests that the starting spot belongs to Pelini. However, he doesn't hold that much of an edge over Thurston, so counting the latter out already seems a little premature.

    Nebraska losing three tackles to graduation does open up the door for Thurston to step up. He may be poised to be the No. 2 center right now, but that doesn't mean he can't have a big 2014.

    As 2013 proved, injuries are always possible, so Thurston has to be ready. Whether he gives Pelini a run for his money at center or is ever asked to step up due to injury, Thurston has the chance to shine. It will just depend on how hard he works between now and fall.

     

    Recruit information courtesy of 247Sports.com.

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