Nebraska Football: 5 Cornhuskers Ready to Bust out
This is the time of year that is especially frustrating for anyone who follows college football.
Spring ball wrapped up weeks ago, the long dog days of summer have just begun and to make it worse, the college football annuals are finding their way to newsstands everywhere.
Over 90 days before kickoff and many are left salivating in anticipation of the 2011 season.
With the Nebraska Cornhuskers making the switch to the Big 10, anticipation in Cornhusker land is likely at an all time high. New opponents, new road venues, new fan bases and traditions to get to know.
With that, lets look into the Professor's crystal ball and find out who the breakout stars will be for the Cornhuskers in 2011.
Every team has those players that breakout every year. You know.. the guys that suddenly and often out of nowhere burst onto the scene and leave their mark in a big way.
Maybe they are a returning starter who is just now realizing his vast potential. Or maybe they are a fresh faced, freshman wunderkind with the personality, maturity and talent to leave their mark early on the Cornhusker program.
Here they are.. Five breakout players for the Cornhuskers in 2011.
The Fresh Faced Wunderkind Newcomer
Jamal Turner is that guy and he will get his chances. He is likely to be starting at one of the wide receiver positions.
Turner brings speed, electricity, elusiveness and big-play ability that this Cornhusker offense desperately needs to help stretch the defense. Turner demonstrated some good soft hands during spring ball and in the spring game.
Turner also has the wiggle, the swivel in the hips, the "make you miss and there he goes for a touchdown" athletic ability that will impact punt and kick returns for Nebraska.
Turner was recruited as a quarterback out of Texas, and Tim Beck is likely to have a package of plays for him to run from the quarterback position.
Jamal Turner may be the Bobby Newcombe of 2011.
Ready for His Opportunity
Though Josh Williams will be starting for the first time, he has worked hard to get himself into position to be a top-notch contributor for the Pelini Blackshirts.
Of the defensive ends competing to replace the departed Pierre Allan, Williams has the most experience and appears the most ready.
Williams has worked hard under the tutelage of Nebraska strength coach James Dobson to add bulk to what was a thin frame yet remain flexible and agile.
At 6'4", 260 pounds, he should be able to hold his own or more against the best of the best offensive tackles the Big 10 has to offer.
One of these days, a defensive end will impact the Pelini defense the way Grant Wistrom, Jerad Tomich, Mike Rucker, and Kyle Vanden Bosch did for Charlie McBride.
Josh Williams might be that guy for Bo Pelini that the others were for Charlie McBride.
Dan Beebe's Favorite Cornhusker Player
The move from linebacker to defensive end may be just perfect for Eric Martin. Martin seemed to be wasting a bit on the depth chart at linebacker so a move to defensive end gets that motor and physical presence on the field.
Martin's "all out, like a missile, just go hit someone" play some times caused him to be out of position, so the change to defensive end could be a nice fit.
Since the end of the 2010 season, Martin has been a demon in the weight room, and also apparently on the field during the spring practice sessions and in the spring game.
At first glance, it would appear that a player like Martin may only be a situational pass rusher but he was able to hold up well against the run during the spring.
As a defensive end, Martin can let it loose and just go play football and attack the offense off the edge, as opposed to being responsible for leading the defense from the middle linebacker spot.
Even if Martin is only a situational pass rusher, that ability, motor and quickness could put Martin in the middle of opposing Big 10 backfields more than offensive coordinators want to see.
The Next Lockdown Corner
Cornhusker fans got a glimpse of Ciante Evans last year during the Missouri game when starter Alphonso Dennard went down very early with a head injury.
The early injury to Dennard surely made Cornhusker fans take a deep breath, especially with the pass-happy Missouri Tigers and Blaine Gabbert in Lincoln.
Memorial Stadium must have gasped at the sight of a wet-behind-the-ears true freshman replacing the injured star corner. If only Cornhusker fans knew what Bo Pelini knew about this kid. Evans can play and his confidence showed early.
Evans played very well in coverage, showing great range, good ball skills and a physical manner when tackling the ball carrier.
One play in particular showed the kind of confidence and physical nature with which Evans plays. With Missouri trying to get back in the game, the Tigers had a first-and-goal at the Nebraska one yard line.
Gabbert ran a designed quarterback run play off tackle and was abruptly and violently stopped by Evans with a textbook tackle. Blaine Gabbert, meet Ciante Evans.
With Dennard on one side and Evans on the other, the Blackshirts may possess the best pair of starting corners in the Big 10. Both Dennard and Evans play a physical style that may surprise the Big 10.
The Family Tradition Continues
Baker Steinkuhler follows in the footsteps of father Dean and brother Ty, but will start the 2011 season looking to leave his own legacy on the Cornhusker program.
Entering the 2011 season with one year of starting experience under his belt, it is time for Baker to take that next step to the elite level. There is no doubt that the latest in the line of Steinkuhlers has the tools to become the next elite defensive tackle at Nebraska under the tutelage of the brothers Pelini.
Baker is a rangy, athletic, high motor player in a 6'6', 295-pound package. There is some sense that the way the 2010 season ended for Baker with the Holiday Bowl suspension that he may be as motivated as ever to put 2010 behind him with an outstanding performance in 2011.
Having a great year in 2011 would go far in forgetting the disappointment of missing the Holiday Bowl rematch with Washington..
With the experience of Crick next to him, if Baker meets some of the high expectations, the Blackshirts could have a starting defensive tackle tandem that rivals Crick and Suh of 2009 and causes fits for Big 10 offensive lines.