Nebraska Football: 10 Newcomers Who Will Make an Immediate Impact
Making bold predictions for upcoming seasons is always risky business. Turning that attention to players who have yet to see any playing time is even more dicey.
Nebraska football enters the 2011 season as the newest member of the Big Ten conference - with tantalizing thoughts of new foes, new stadiums and new traditions.
While the Big Ten landscape is relatively uncharted territory for Nebraska, there is a stable of new Huskers chomping at the bit to find significant playing time in this inaugural season.
Freshmen - both true and redshirted - have spent the majority of Spring practice trying to impress Head Coach Bo Pelini and the rest of the coaching staff, while trying to grasp the complexities of the college game.
Turning back to bold predictions, the following ten Husker newcomers (true freshmen or redshirt) will make an immediate impact in 2011.
RB Ameer Abdullah
While Rex Burkhead has all but wrapped up the starting slot at running back for Nebraska, depth and overall experience behind him are a bit of a concern.
Ameer Abdullah is a smaller back at 5'9" and 180 pounds, but he has tremendous speed and great receiving abilities. Paired with quarterback Taylor Martinez, the duo could be lethal.
Because of the lack of experience at running back, expect new offensive coordinator Tim Beck to rotate several newcomers into the equation behind Burkhead. Abdullah should get his fair share of touches as a true freshman and if he takes advantage, he could be a home-run threat in the Husker backfield.
DB Harvey Jackson
Coach Bo Pelini loves tough, physical defensive backs, and Harvey Jackson more than fits the bill. He is an amazing tackler who never shies away from contact and had a terrific spring game, totaling five tackles and picking off a Taylor Martinez pass.
While there is some solid experience at the safety position, Jackson could find himself in the mix this season—especially in nickel, dime and peso packages.
Jackson has great size and instincts and, at the very least, could become the next Eric Martin on special teams in 2011.
PK Mauro Bondi
Alex Henery is off to a promising career in the NFL and already holds a place in Husker lore. Now, one of the least talked about and most important holes to fill is placekicker—and Henery left some huge shoes to fill.
Mauro Bondi will most likely take over for the "Skinny Assassin" in 2011, and while there may be some bumps in the road, he looks like a sure-footed talent in the making. Bondi has a strong leg and has time to develop into the next great Husker kicker—he booted a 51-yard field goal as a high school junior.
Unlike the other newcomers on this list, Bondi might actually have the the clearest path to a starting job in 2011.
OL Tyler Moore
Some have considered the 2011 Husker offensive line as the position that will determine Nebraska's overall success. While Jeremiah Sirles, Marcell Jones and Yoshi Hardrick return at the tackle position, O-line coach Barney Cotton likes to rotate his big men.
Florida product Tyler Moore is an absolute beast at the tackle position and could find his way into the two-deep rotation by the time the season starts. An explosive and surprising quick lineman for his size, Moore already looks the part of a seasoned Division I player.
If he can improve on his pass-protection skills, Moore and Sirles could become bookends on the Husker offensive line for the next couple of years.
DB Corey Cooper
Safety Corey Cooper is another big-bodied defensive back that should fit in nicely with the Husker defensive philosophy. He is a physical player with great hands and a bona fide mean streak—think Eric Martin but as a safety.
Cooper should get valuable playing time as a redshirt freshman in 2011—maybe not as a starter, but definitely in the rotation. He is listed at 210 pounds, which seems a little small if you watched the spring game. Because of his big frame, Cooper could be a leading candidate for the "Peso" position, if it is employed.
Because of the perceived physical play of Big Ten offenses, Cooper seems like a perfect fit—fast enough to play safety, but big enough to both deliver and absorb hits.
DT Jay Guy
The next Ndamukong Suh? While a bit of an unfair comparison, Jay Guy is a big defensive tackle who has quickly become a favorite among coaches because of his motor and ability to get to the quarterback.
Not forgetting potential All-American Jared Crick or Baker Steinkuhler—who have a strangle hold on the two starting spots—Guy is a redshirt freshman who will find his way into the defensive line rotation this season.
It isn't unrealistic to expect upwards of five sacks from Guy in his first go-round, and he more than proved his worth in the spring game. When Crick or Steinkuhler leave the game, opposing offensive linemen won't get much of a break dealing with this stout, strong defensive tackle.
QB Brion Carnes
This one is a bit tricky. The term "immediate impact" generally implies that a player will come on in the first few games of the season and provide instant productivity. While there are a lot of "ifs" with regards to quarterback Brion Carnes' playing time, his lights-out performance in the spring game merits attention.
There seems to be little doubt that Taylor Martinez will be under center (or in the gun) at the start of the Chattanooga game. How long he remains there depends on his growth at the position and his ability to fight injury. Those are the aforementioned "ifs."
Seemingly overnight—and by aid of an 11-15 passing effort in the spring game that included two touchdowns—Brion Carnes has become a fun topic of discussion in Husker Nation.
Although putting up those kinds of numbers in a spring game against third and fourth string defenders isn't a sure-fire way of becoming an instant All-American, Carnes showed enough moxie and intelligence to overtake Cody Green as the number two option behind Martinez.
Regardless of how Taylor Martinez plays, there seems to be an undeniable air of confidence in Carnes. This was something sorely lacking last season. Not only does Carnes possess steady accuracy, but he can punish defenses with his feet.
RB Aaron Green
Running back Aaron Green was the cherry on top of a diverse and talented 2011 recruiting class. He has been tabbed as a "can't-miss" talent with unbelievable elusiveness and top-notch speed.
Even though he is the second running back on this list, all indications point to Green having a stellar career with the Huskers. As with Ameer Abdullah, Green will get his touches this year because of a lack of experienced depth behind Rex Burkhead.
The only real gripe scouts have had about Green is his lack of size, but coming out of Texas—where football is king—he amassed gaudy numbers and became a prized recruit by pundits, coaches and fans alike.
Regardless of returning backs with multiple years of experience in the system, Aaron Green seems to factor as an immediate contributor with play-making ability written all over him.
WR Kenny Bell
The receiver position was listed as an area of concern coming into the 2011 season. With only Brandon Kinnie logging extensive playing time last season, the rest of the corps is largely unknown.
While Kinnie has developed into a sure-handed and favorite target of quarterback Taylor Martinez, redshirt freshman Kenny Bell has quickly become an eye-opening force at receiver. The first thing anyone tells you about Bell—he is fast!
The speedster out of Colorado sports an afro and rides a skateboard around campus. This season, expect Bell to blaze past defensive backs and become a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses. With teams accounting for the reliable Brandon Kinnie, Bell is a viable deep-threat option.
Bell could easily find playing time because of his speed alone, but he has shown excellent hands in Spring practice. Kenny Bell could become the clear-cut number two option by the time Chattanooga visits.
WR Jamal Turner
Jamal Turner signed up to play quarterback at Nebraska, and Husker Nation collectively entertained daydreams of him becoming the next Tommie Frazier or Eric Crouch.
Then came the position switch to receiver in the Spring.
Then the electrifying spring game performance.
Then the flip heard/seen/read across the world (or at least the population that fancies all things red).
Jamal Turner was no longer a daydream but an absolute keeper.
Suddenly, Nebraska football has an exciting group of wide receivers - albeit mostly inexperienced. Turner proved to everyone in the Spring game that he is a big-time talent and should push for immediate playing time at receiver.
Not only that, but the kid is already a polished and devastating return man. Turner will have to grow into his immense talent at receiver, but he can be plugged in right away in the return game and it wouldn't be surprising if he notched a few returns for touchdowns in his freshman season.