Every year, Nebraska fans always look forward to seeing the new players...but this year, I suspect that curiosity is even higher as several new players could not only see significant playing time, if not start the season opener. That's the case on defense, where only four starters return from a defense that didn't perform well at times in 2012. Last year's breakdowns create openings for new players to quickly move ahead of last year's backups.
So here's a list of candidates of players who might see significant action in 2013.
Randy Gregory, Sophomore Defensive End. The junior college transfer arrived a few weeks ago, and has drawn rave reviews for his athleticism. Listening to the coaching staff, they seem to want him on the field as soon as possible.
Vincent Valentine, Redshirt Freshman Defensive tackle. He was raved about last fall. But Bo Pelini called him out at Big Ten media days in Chicago:
"Vincent’s got to learn how to work and push through. You’re that big, that physical and that talented — it was easy for him in high school. To step up to this next level, he’s got to understand the type of mentality, the type of work ethic, and being able to fight through when you’re tired. The self-imposed hurdles he has to overcome. Some of it’s mental with Vincent. He’s a young guy. There’s nothing new there. The faster he understands that, the more he’ll be able to help us."
I suspect that Pelini was trying to motivate Valentine; I get the feeling the staff has high expectations for him. We didn't get to see him in the spring game, and frankly, I wouldn't be shocked to see him start.
Greg McMullen, Redshirt Freshman Defensive End. Another guy who got mentions last fall for his work, but also missed the spring game.
Jared Afalava, Redshirt Freshman Linebacker. He caught my eye in the spring game, and I suspect we'll see a lot of him when Nebraska needs three linebackers on the field.
Michael Rose, Redshirt Freshman Linebacker. Another touted freshman who should see some playing time in a backup role.
Nate Gerry, true Freshman Safety. Errr... now linebacker, apparently. The staff seems to be looking for a place to get the South Dakota track star on the field this year.
True frosh Nate Gerry, listed as DB, has been working at BUCK & WILL LB. "He can play a lot of different spots for us," Bo said. #Huskers— Steven M. Sipple (@HuskerExtraSip) August 14, 2013
Tommy Armstrong, Redshirt Freshman Quarterback. Is he the heir apparent to Taylor Martinez? He looked pretty good in the spring game.
Johnny Stanton, true Freshman Quarterback. If not Armstrong, is it Stanton? Stanton likely redshirts, barring a serious injury to Martinez. So we'll bide our time until next spring.
Adam Taylor, true Freshman I-back. He put on quite a show in the Texas high school championship game.
Terrell Newby, true Freshman I-back. Let's not leave him out either.
Cethan Carter, true Freshman Tight End. With the injury to Jake Long, will Carter see some playing time early?
Pat Smith, senior Kicker. The transfer from Western Illinois didn't come to Lincoln to sit on the bench.
Sam Foltz, redshirt Freshman Punter. The Huskers keep finding outstanding punters in the state. Foltz looks like the latest in a long line. Let's just hope whoever punts this season isn't needed much.
So who most intrigues you going into this season?