So the excitement of the early signing period has died down a little, Nebraska has the makings of a class, though not all of it. What does the Huskers' roster look like in terms of scholarship players with the new additions?
For the purposes of this breakdown, no one has transferred (because no one has transferred yet) and no one has declared for the NFL Draft (because that hasn't happened yet either).
If you want a breakdown of the walk-on kids, go here.
Quarterbacks: Tanner Lee (SR), Patrick O’Brien (SO), Tristan Gebbia (FR)
Signed: Adrian Martinez
Analysis: This will be the most talked about, most dissected, most belabored topic of the entire offseason. Who will start at quarterback?
Take this from offensive coordinator Troy Walters from a recent appearance on Sports Nightly: “He’s going to compete, we’re not going to give him the job.”
But you would have to think this competition also impacts what happens in Lee’s immediate future. The transfer quarterback has one year of eligibility remaining but has legitimate prospects as an NFL quarterback. It’s been pretty quiet on the Lee-to-NFL front, but can he really risk coming back for a final season and landing behind someone like Gebbia or Martinez on the depth chart?
Both of the aforementioned youngsters fit better into Frost’s new offense than Lee and reading between the lines on what happens in his professional decision will probably say a lot about where the staff is leaning in terms of next season’s starting quarterback.
Running backs: Devine Ozigbo (SR), Mikale Wilbon (SR), Trey Bryant (JR), Jaylin Bradley (SO)
Signed: Greg Bell (JUCO)
Analysis: Tre Bryant exploded for 192 yards in the season opener this past season before his knees gave out. Surgery, according to the previous coaching staff, should have him ready to go for next season. Ozigbo got more carries than any other Husker back but had the worst yards-per-tote average (3.8) and reached the end zone only three times. Wilbon had six rushing touchdowns but couldn’t seem to stay healthy consistently. Bradley showed flashes in his first year but seems to be once again buried.
Bell, coming in as a two-time junior college All-American, has a legitimate shot at earning touches from Day 1.
Former head coach Mike Riley said all last season he felt like the Huskers had four backs that could all start, it will be curious to see if this new staff feels the same way. For what it’s worth, Adrian Killins — Central Florida’s starter at running back last year — got 42.5 percent of the 266 carries given to the top five Knights backs.
Fullbacks: Ben Miles (FR)
Analysis: New head coach Scott Frost came from the fullback loving days. These are not fullback loving days anymore.
Wide receivers: Stanley Morgan Jr. (SR), Keyan Williams (SR), Zack Darlington (SR), Tyjon Lindsey (SO), JD Spielman (SO), Jaevon McQuitty (FR)
Signed: Jaron Woodyard (JUCO), Justin McGriff
Analysis: Morgan and Spielman are the obvious stars of the bunch. The Knights had a 1,000-yard receiver and a 650-yard receiver last season. It’s not outside the realm of possibility to think Morgan and Spielman could exceed those numbers in Frost’s offense.
Lindsey should be used more and McQuitty, following an injury-lost first season on campus, is a real question mark as to what exactly the Huskers can get from him.
Frost said on Wednesday that the sheer numbers at wide receiver were too low, so expect the Huskers to add a few more pass-catchers by the February signing day. But, the additions of Woodyard — immediately one of the two or three fastest players on the team — and McGriff — a 6-foot-6 monster of a body — help out the room. Both will probably be competing for snaps right away
Tight ends: Matt Snyder (JR), Jack Stoll (SO), David Engelhaupt (SO), Austin Allen (FR), Kurt Rafdal (FR)
Signed: Cameron Jurgens, Katerian Legrone
Analysis: The best insight into how this offense plans to use tight ends is in how Frost filled out his staff: Nebraska used a graduate assistant as its tight ends coach under Riley, Frost lured away UCF-lifer Sean Beckton to coach tight ends full time.
Stoll came on strong late last season once Connor Ketter was lost to injury and Frost spoke highly of Jurgens’ potential on Wednesday.
Offensive line: Jerald Foster (SR), Tanner Farmer (SR), Nick Gates (SR), Cole Conrad (SR), Michael Decker (JR), Jalin Barnett (JR), Christian Gaylord (JR), Brenden Jaimes (SO), Bryan Brokop (SO), Matt Farniok (SO), John Raridon (SO), Boe Wilson (SO), Broc Bando (FR), Matt Sichterman (FR)
Signed: Will Farniok
Analysis: Nebraska was awful running the ball last season. I don’t have the space to share all the numbers so just go read how awful it really was. Danny Langsdorf, Riley’s offensive coordinator, also spoke critically of the pass protection on a regular basis. Instead of going all in on adding new talent in its recruiting class, Nebraska is banking on developing the talent it already has on its roster.
Guys like Barnett, Gaylord and Wilson were buried on the depth chart last season and when Frost said, “at every single position the competition is going to start over,” I couldn’t help but think about the offensive line. Does Conrad or Farmer play just because they’re the veterans on the team? Probably not.
Defensive line: Mick Stoltenberg (SR), Freedom Akinmoladun (SR), Peyton Newell (SR), Carlos Davis (JR), Khalil Davis (JR), DaiShon Neal (JR), Deontre Thomas (SO), Damion Daniels (FR)
Signed: Tate Wildeman
Analysis: Similar to with the offensive line, these guys aren’t broken into more specific positions because those positions have a high likelihood of changing once the new staff starts getting to work. Somebody like Stille or Alston in the next group could even move up and play with their hand down.
Nebraska was similarly bad defending the run, but how much of the strain last season (did you see it?) had to do with changing defensive philosophies, not knowing what they were supposed to be doing or something else. Were they really that bad? Frost doesn’t seem to think so.
This group feels a little bit like a blank slate.
Outside linebackers: Luke Gifford (SR), Sedrick King (SR), Tyrin Ferguson (JR), Alex Davis (JR), Ben Stille (SO), Collin Miller (SO), Quayshon Alexander (SO), Guy Thomas (FR)
Signed: David Alston
Analysis: Alston’s high school coach spoke glowingly of his abilities on Hail Varsity Radio Wednesday and given the relative inexperience of this group, there will probably be a lot of opportunities for both him and guys like Alexander, Miller or Thomas moving forward. Especially if Gifford’s hip — he had season-ending surgery in November — isn’t ready to go by the time summer ball begins.
Inside linebackers: Dedrick Young (SR), Mohamed Barry (JR), Avery Roberts (SO), Pernell Jefferson (SO), Andrew Ward (FR)
Signed: Will Honas (JUCO)
Analysis: Losing Chris Weber — a captain and major leader on last season’s team — will hurt but Barry is ready for a bigger a role. A Blackshirt last season, Barry’s role grew as the season went on and so did his confidence. He’s a potential impact player for this defensive unit moving forward.
Adding the No. 1 junior college linebacker in Honas also helps and Hail Varsity’s Jacob Padilla is fueling the “Pernell Jefferson Hype Train.” This group has the potential to be one of the team’s strengths.
Cornerbacks: Lamar Jackson (JR), Eric Lee Jr. (JR), Avery Anderson (JR), Dicaprio Bootle (SO)
Signed: Deontai Williams (JUCO)
Analysis: If the last group can be a strength, this group will be a crutch. Who’s the best player of this small bunch? Bootle? Jackson, one of the prizes of the previous regime’s recruiting, followed up a disappointing freshman season with an even more disappointing sophomore season. Lee suffered a concussion last season that sidelined him for a significant portion of the final stretch, but when he was on the field, he wasn’t a rock either.
It’s also not a given Williams will play corner.
This group should get a few more additions before Signing Day. It needs to.
Safeties: Aaron Williams (SR), Antonio Reed (SR), JoJo Domann (SO), Marquel Dismuke (SO), Tony Butler (SO)
Analysis: Maybe you can add Deontai Williams to this group, maybe you can remove Butler from this group (he spent some time at corner last season), maybe you’ll be able to add CJ Smith to this group (he’s committed but hasn’t signed). Either way, there’s talent here, just not a lot of scholarship bodies.
The top three players in this group all dealt with injuries last season that caused them to miss time. Domann missed the whole year. They can’t really afford injuries or things will get tight.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.