Say adios to Rex Burkhead. There's no more Will Compton. Cameron Meredith and Baker Steinkuhler are taking their skills elsewhere. Who can replace the leadership lost with the absence of 2012's seniors? Five for your consideration:
5. Michael Rose - An underclassman linebacker?! Madness, you say? Fact is, Rose has been talking the talk for quite some time now, but can he walk the walk?
Thus far, he's proven himself a tenacious recruiter, if nothing else.
Jamie Newberg of ESPN Recruiting interviewed Rose in July 2011 on this very topic.
"I am all over the place," Rose said. "I am on Facebook, Twitter and on my cell phone. If you are within distance of me I will be at your house. I realize that this is a big decision for all of us. It's a tough spot and a decision that will alter the next 20 to 30 years of our lives. It's interesting because some guys listen and others turn you down."
The result? It's hard to think that the commitment of Kansas City, MO.'s Zach Hannon didn't involve a nudge or two from another Rockhurst High School alum.
There may be six freshmen linebackers, but Rose has the flare of an upperclassman. Put him in, coach. He's ready to play. Today.
4. Spencer Long - The Associated Press second team All-American is going to play a big role in how effective the Huskers' offense is in 2013. With the departure of Justin Jackson, Nebraska finds itself searching for a starting center for the second straight season.
While the honor of an offensive line leader usually flows to the middle of the big men up front, Long's name is heard the least over loud speakers, the trademark of a quality offensive lineman.
3. Ameer Abdullah - Rex Burkhead's 2012 injury may have been a blessing in disguise. While Nebraska fans wanted to see Superman rack up the yardage and perhaps even bolt to New York, Abdullah and several other backs got invaluable snaps as a result.
The Huskers' 2012 leading rusher will likely see himself close to quarterback Taylor Martinez on the stat sheet yet again when it comes yardage gained on the ground. While Braylon Heard is also a junior, Abdullah is clearly Tim Beck's favorite as of now.
The youngsters need to look to No. 8 for guidance.
2. Kenny Bell - If you don't know, trust in The Fro! Whether making a leaping grab or knocking an opposing player's fillings out, Bell is a junior on a mission.
Enunwa has his role as the goon, the bruiser, the thug, and he plays the part well. He'll add to the yardage totals, but he's one of the best run blockers on the team. Bell's your man when it comes to leading arguably the best receiving corps in the Big Ten.
1. Taylor Martinez - This seems oddly familiar. Another year, another starting role for Martinez, but this is his final chance at greatness. Sure, he owns records, but Marlon Lucky's No. 19 on Nebraska's all-time rushing list and many consider him a bust.
What will change Martinez's legacy from "the guy who ran a lot" to a story of heat forging the strongest steel? Rings.
The good news: there are 10 other players on the field to help him succeed. If he can continue to improve this off-season and truly command the huddle come 2013's kickoff, No. 3 may finally realize his full potential.
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