photo and story by Patrick Runge
Nebraska football fans have seen the calendar turn to March, and are looking at the roster to see who might be the stars of 2015. The arrival of new head coach Mike Riley makes it hard to look at anyone as a guaranteed starter, although there are some players that fans can be pretty sure will have big roles.
But here are three players who Nebraska fans might not have at the top of their minds, but who could make a huge name for themselves this spring.
Over the last few years, few Cornhuskers have offered—and failed to deliver—more than Turner. After converting from quarterback before his freshman year, Turner held out the promise of an electric, game-changing receiver.
But that promise never materialized. Turner struggled to learn the position in his freshman and sophomore year. And seemingly every time it looked like things were turning around for Turner, injuries derailed his progress.
Now, with a medical hardship year, and with Riley’s history of producing wide receivers, Turner has the chance to finally claim the glory that has eluded him throughout his career in Lincoln.
Last year, it looked like everything was ready to come together for Jackson. A freak athlete, Jackson looked like he had finally shown enough discipline and gained the coaches’ trust. He looked set to be the starting nickel back and make his mark on the Blackshirts.
Then an injury in spring practice cost him the 2014 season.
Now, with his rehab completed, Jackson is ready to compete in a crowded defensive secondary for a starting job. Whether he ends up at safety, corner, or nickel back, Jackson has the chance to finally make his mark.
If there’s any position group that looks to benefit from Nebraska’s coaching change, it’s the tight ends. Under Bo Pelini, talented offensive tight ends like Mike McNeil, Kyler Reed, and Carter were left to wither on the vine. No tight end has notched more than 442 receiving yards for Nebraska since McNeil in 2008.
Of course, we don’t know what Nebraska’s offense will look like next year under Riley. But Breakdown Sports does a great job of describing how the tight end has been important in Riley’s offense in the past. Take a look at how the tight end usage between Nebraska and Riley’s Oregon State compare:
|Year||Rec – NU||Rec – OSU||Diff.||Yards – NU||Yards – OSU||Diff.||TD – NU||TD – OSU||Diff.|
Pay attention to the differential. In each of the three statistical categories, the differential goes from being in Nebraska’s favor in 2010 to being decidedly in Oregon State’s favor by 2014. It’s fair to expect Riley’s arrival should help Nebraska’s tight end production—and that should mean a huge opportunity for Carter.