Nebraska Football: 5 Cornhuskers Primed for Breakout Seasons
Nebraska football fans will be anxiously watching the 2014 season to see which players will become breakout stars. It’s the breakout stars, not the proven commodities, who can help propel a team like Nebraska from almost-there to contending for conference and national titles.
So which Cornhuskers are primed for breakout seasons? Here are five candidates.
A smart and particularly handsome analyst has already tapped Newby as Nebraska’s X-factor for the 2014 season. It’s not hard to see why, given his ability to score every time he touches the ball and the trust he’s already earned from the coaches after his performance last year as a true freshman.
Ameer Abdullah is the undisputed leader of Nebraska’s offense, and Imani Cross is a capable backup and change-of-pace back. But Newby should still get his chance to shine, both on offense and on special teams. If he takes advantage of those opportunities, he could be the X-factor for Nebraska’s offense.
Valentine has always had the size (6'3", 320 pounds) to excel as an interior defensive lineman. But toward the end of his freshman campaign last year, Valentine began to show flashes of talent and understanding that could make him a true anchor for Nebraska’s defensive line.
With the size of a true nose tackle, Valentine gives Nebraska the option to run a three-man front and put more pass-rushing specialists on the field. While that might not show up on the stat sheet, he could end up giving the Blackshirts the flexibility to attack opposing offenses that has not been seen in some time.
For some reason, Nebraska under Bo Pelini seems hellbent to ignore talented, offensively minded tight ends. From Mike McNeil to Kyler Reed, Nebraska has discovered true mismatch weapons at tight end—only to let them wither on the vine.
Nebraska has another opportunity with Cethan Carter, who has the size, speed and athleticism to be the kind of weapon for NU that Rob Gronkowski is for the New England Patriots. At some point, Nebraska’s coaching staff has to take advantage of an offensive-minded tight end like Carter—right?
Nebraska’s linebacker corps is a mess but in a good way. So much of Nebraska’s linebacker talent is young and has yet to truly seize a starting job and a position on the field. Michael Rose may be an exception at "Mike," but other than that, the depth chart is pretty fluid.
The exception other than Rose, of course, is Anderson. As a senior with three years in the program, Anderson should have the experience to help him excel. And if 2014 can keep him free from the injuries that have derailed his previous two campaigns, Anderson has the talent to become the true star of Nebraska’s linebacker corps.
Last year Gerry was able to earn playing time as a true freshman at linebacker. But his size (6'2", 205 pounds) and lack of experience led him to struggle and ultimately lose his playing time.
This year, he has moved from linebacker to safety, a position his size and speed fit more naturally. There is a safety spot open opposite Corey Cooper, and Gerry has every opportunity to win the job and earn a black shirt.
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