RB.) Imani Cross -
The junior running back showed this spring he isn't looking to take a backseat to anybody, especially some youngsters. What fans saw in the spring game was something the media saw on a regular basis during their 14 practice sessions. Cross is back up to his natural playing weight, but hitting the holes faster than he ever has before. Ameer Abdullah
is going to get the bulk of the carries in 2014 - he should as a Heisman candidate. But Cross appears to be someone who deserves at least the same number of touches he got last season.
Imani Cross (Stewart Photography)
WR.) Brandon Reilly - There must be something in the water at Hawks practice facility, because Nebraska seems to be churning out walk-on wide receivers who can be major factors down the road.
First it was Sam Burtch, now Brandon Reilly, a sophomore who impressed during spring practices and the Red-White game.
"That kid is a stud," said senior wide receiver Kenny Bell, the same Bell who is set to become one of Nebraska's all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards in 2014. "You want to write about someone who is going to make plays here and will be big his last two years, talk about Reilly. The kid is a stud. He's talented. He's a walk-on guy, but he will be on scholarship next year. Mark my words."
DE.) Greg McMullen - Head coach Bo Pelini said the sophomore could not only be a good player down the road, but a great player – those type of compliments don't come easy. McMullen showed he's more than capable of playing in place of Avery Moss this season and probably is ahead of where Moss was at last season. With the type of attention Randy Gregory is likely to get down the road, mixed with better interior play, McMullen could be in store for a big 2014 season.
S.) Nate Gerry -
The safety got first-team reps most of the spring with the absence of Corey Cooper
and benefited from it, after playing his true freshman season at linebacker.
"I think it was really good for me just because the fact that my goal is to play this fall. (Corey Cooper) being out offered me the opportunity to go against good athletes like Kenny (Bell) and Ameer (Abdullah) and guys like that," said Gerry. "One thing that helped me a lot was (Cooper) coming in on the weekends and helping me learn more of the mental aspects of the game more than the physical aspects of the game. That's one thing I appreciate him doing. One thing I like about a lot of the safeties is that we all want to play, but everyone is there to help each other out."
LB.) Marcus Newby - Newby is likely at least a season away from helping at the linebacker spot, but appears to have found a niche as a speed pass-rushing end on the edge. He has a first-step that gives offensive tackles trouble. How much that translates to playing time in 2014 remains to be seen – when Nebraska has two very capable ends in McMullen and Gregory.
QB.) Ryke Fyfe - The walk-on quarterback looked nothing like one, pushing redshirt freshman Johnny Stanton for the backup job this spring. A Grand Island product, Fyfe looks comfortable in Tim Beck's offense.
Ryker Fyfe (Stewart Photography)
K.) Mauro Bondi – Brett Maher gone…Pat Smith gone. The spring was all about the junior and he didn't really capitalize – meaning there is likely going to be a kicking competition this fall between him and true freshman Drew Brown.
"We have a really good kicker coming in that we have a lot of confidence in. I don't know what was going on with the kicks today, but that is something we've been struggling a little bit in practice," said Pelini on Saturday. "Overall our kicking just needs to be more consistent. We did a lot of fundamental training with our kickers this spring. We have a lot of field goal kicking. With the guys that we have right now, I think they are all capable, but just not consistent yet."
OL.) Ryne Reeves - Practices started off great for Reeves, who worked with the first-team as the center. But injuries slowed his progression over the last half of the spring, as he missed the final week of work and the Red-White game. He's likely got the edge over of Mark Pelini in the fall for the center spot, but the gap is narrower.
DE.) Joe Keels - Let me preface this by saying, Keels' development is right where I projected it would be. But, after Randy Gregory's arrival last year, there was probably too much hype put on Keels when he committed. According to Pelini, Keels came on late in the spring, meaning he's likely to be a guy who can be a quality backup behind McMullen and Gregory.
DE.) A.J. Natter - See Ryne Reeves. The redshirt freshman struggled to stay healthy, and ultimately needed a small surgery to get his knee healed up completely. He should be fine in a couple weeks, but would have gotten some meaningful reps this spring if he had stayed healthy. Keels and Natter are both guys expected to have the up arrow next to their name come this fall.