Fall camp is officially underway and now the wait is less than a month away. Many Husker fans await the arrival of their heroes in scarlet and cream, which begs the question, who can provide the biggest impact for Nebraska?
There are a few obvious choices (here’s looking at you Jeff Sims and Malachi Coleman) but what about the elder statesmen who have been here? How about incoming impact transfers? Their leadership in turning things around have to be the most important aspect of the season, but their own progress bears the brunt of the “rebrand.” Here are the 4 guys whom I consider the most valuable right now.
Number One: Teddy Prochazka
There is no doubt that Ethan Piper is the undisputed leader of the pipeline, but the biggest impact player in the trenches for me is Prochazka. A Chevy S-10 in a previous life, he has all the tools to keep defensive ends and blitzing linebackers from getting to Sims. Why he is the guy to look for is simple: can he keep the injury bug at bay?
Offensive tackle has to be the toughest position in my opinion because many people talk about it. Only two outcomes come of that talk and it’s loud when it’s not going well. Prochazka’s time at Nebraska has been marred with injuries, but if he can stay healthy this season than the offensive line will undoubtedly be improved by his presence.
His pad level for a guy who can’t fit in most basements without causing holes in the ceiling is a crucial aspect of his ability to keep speedy linebackers from getting to the quarterback. If he gets hurt, the offensive line will struggle, and the depth will be tested quickly.
Number Two: Zavier Betts
Plenty has been made of his relatively short career so far at Nebraska, but Zavier intrigues me for a different reason. Those who have had the privilege of watching him play have no doubts about his talent, but the reason I’m watching is because of the change in potential leadership in the WR room.
He’s gone from being in the team, to out of the team, and now back in again. If done the right way, his story can help the incoming guys about what is asked from them both on and off the field. Leadership comes in many forms, whether it's vocal or just showing how things are done.
Zavier can provide both of those roles from his experiences in the last year and that is not an easy thing to accomplish. He can be a vocal leader on the field, but the latter he can provide off of it, which will be critical in helping Nebraska turn things around.
Number Three: MJ Sherman
Win a national championship? Check.
Transfer to a college blue blood that’s been down for a few years? Check.
Showing fans that you can lead Nebraska back to the first question? Well, hopefully check.
MJ’s transfer from the National Title winning Bulldogs to Nebraska is crucial for a couple of reasons.
Linebacker is easily considered the QB of the defense, so what better way to improve the culture of a team than to bring in a guy who has helped another team reach the pinnacle? Until the season starts, MJ’s biggest role to help the team is by setting the tone of how you should act as a player. Once the season starts, we’ll get to see his role on the field, which may be a bit part or a big part.
Champions are not made in the ring; they are recognized there. Think Bud Crawford is just good without putting in the work? This isn’t a “Well we did this at Georgia” scenario, this is a “I can show you how we should be doing better at Nebraska” scenario.
Having a former champion lead the team in regard to putting in the work off of the field is more important than anything right now.
Number Four: The Backup Quarterbacks
Anyone specific? Nope. Under Scott Frost/Mickey Joseph, let’s just say the play of the quarterback position has been iffy at best if the starter goes down. For those who might be sobering up from last few seasons yet, I’ll painfully remind you that under Frost, if Adrian Martinez went down, then the backup QB looked horribly out of place.
Under Frost/Joseph, if Casey Thompson went down, then lather, rinse, repeat.
I’m not bashing the Luke McCaffrey’s, Logan Smothers, Heinrich Haarberg (Go Stars) and Chubba Purdy’s of the world. Let’s be honest with ourselves, but how prepared is the backup QB usually?
This will be the early, genuine testament of the Matt Rhule era. God forbid Sims gets hurt, and particularly early in the year, but if the backup QBs look better prepared on a weekly basis then the panic button may finally get a reprieve from being smashed in. Matt Rhule has been known for developing players, but in this instance it’s the whole QB room that needs to step up if Nebraska aims to be successful this season.
My name is Jarek Shearer. I’m new to the Corn Nation team and look forward to getting to know the Husker community better. I live in Lincoln and work in retail full-time. I have a wonderful wife (Heidi) a 2-year-old daughter (Jeneca) and a grouchy 12-year-old cat (Housecat) whose full name is Dr. Gregory Housecat.
I graduated from Kearney Catholic in 2006. I attended the University of Nebraska where I started out as a meteorology major but ended up as a broadcasting major. I root for the Chicago Bulls, Chicago Cubs, Denver Broncos, Calgary Flames, Liverpool FC and most importantly anything Nebraska Cornhuskers.