Spring break is wrapping up and will give way to spring football on Tuesday as the Huskers are getting ready to truly begin the Scott Frost era.
Nebraska has quite a few players with starting experience returning and Frost and his staff hit the recruiting trail hard to bring in a number of newcomers who could factor into the rotation in 2018. However, a coaching change is often a chance for forgotten players to get a fresh start.
Here are five under the radar players on the offensive side of the ball who could vie for significant playing time next season with a strong showing in spring ball and fall camp.
Junior OT Christian Gaylord (6-6, 300)
Gaylord is heading into his fourth year in Lincoln and the only time Nebraska fans have seen him on the field is when Nebraska has been kicking field goals (in 2016) or punting (in 2017). He redshirted his first year and hasn’t been able to see the field on offense since.
Gaylord probably should have seen at least a few snaps last year based on what he had shown from a talent standpoint, but for whatever reason couldn't find his way into the regular rotation.
Brenden Jaimes looks poised to take over for Nick Gates at left tackle and Matt Farniok may get an early shot at earning the right tackle job, but guys like Gaylord and redshirt freshman Matt Sichterman should have a great opportunity to earn a starting spot or at least the back-up swing tackle role, and that too would put that player in a great spot to see the field in case of injury or as part of a rotation scheme that fans haven’t seen in Nebraska recently even when the starters were banged up.
Sophomore RB Jaylin Bradley (6-0, 180)
Junior college transfer Greg Bell has emerged as most people’s front-runner to be Nebraska’s starter in the backfield next season and Maurice Washington is the shiny new recruit, but something that fans should remember is that Bradley, the sophomore out of Bellevue West, also received an offer from Scott Frost while he was still at Central Florida.
Devine Ozigbo and Mikale Wilbon were ahead of Bradley on the depth chart during his true freshman season, but the pair of seniors (Ozigbo especially) are questionable fits for Frost’s offense, and fit is crucial with this new staff. Bradley has the potential to be the kind of do-it-all back that thrives in Frost’s offense as he has the ability to run between the tackles, bounce it outside and catch passes out of the backfield.
As Nebraska’s third back (after Tre Bryant went down for the season), Bradley carried the ball 24 times in six games. To compare, Central Florida had four backs (plus a quarterback and a wide receiver) who played eight or more games average more carries per game than Bradley got. Their will be carries to spread around come fall, and with Washington not even on campus yet, Bradley has a great opportunity to show the coaches what he can do this spring.
Redshirt Freshmen TEs Austin Allen (6-8, 210) and Kurt Rafdal (6-7, 230)
I’m cheating here by listing both of Nebraska’s redshirt freshmen skyscraper tight ends, but I figured that was more fair than flipping a coin to pick one. Nebraska has one tight end returning who has caught a ball in a real game in Jack Stoll, and even he only has eight receptions to his name. That position is as wide open as any on the roster.
Last year, Central Florida had three tight ends play extensively. According to Sean Beckton, Stoll “thinks he’s the guy” but even if that is true Nebraska is going to play multiple tight ends and both Allen and Rafdal bring something unique to the table — they’re really tall. Both players had a redshirt season to add weight to their frames, and if either of Allen or Rafdal can learn how to get off blocks (click that link above for more on that), they could be dangerous weapons in Frost’s offense with their immense catch radius and mobility.
Redshirt Freshman WR Jaevon McQuitty (6-0, 195)
Stanley Morgan Jr. and JD Spielman set records last season, and the new staff has brought in a recruiting class that includes seven wideouts. Meanwhile, Tyjon Lindsey was one of the jewels of Mike Riley’s last recruiting class but had a disappointing freshman year with just 12 catches. Many expect a break-out year from him in a system that can better exploit his speed.
The forgotten guy in that room seems to be McQuitty, who had his freshman year stolen from him by injury. Now back at full strength, McQuitty should factor heavily into the wide receiver discussion because of his ability to make difficult catches and win 50-50 balls. McQuitty’s high school tape shows some similarities to a young Stanley Morgan Jr. and some of the traits he shares with Nebraska’s best offensive weapon could make him something of a go-to target for whichever of Nebraska’s quarterbacks wins the battle.
Sophomore OG Boe Wilson (6-3, 295)
Perhaps Wilson has received too much buzz over the past two years to be on this list, and sophomore John Raridon could just as easily be in this spot, but despite praise from both coaches and media, he still hasn’t seen the field on the offensive line.
Once Jerald Foster went down shortly before the start of the 2016 season, Wilson emerged as a viable candidate to start at left guard as a true freshman. However, the coaches decided to go a more veteran route and Wilson redshirted. Last year, Nebraska experimented with a couple of tackles at right guard after Tanner Farmer went down rather than exploring options with their underclassman guards. Wilson did see the field on offense as a redshirt freshmen, however, as Nebraska used him as a lead-blocking fullback in goal-line situations a couple of times.
Wilson is a powerful dude who apparently spends his free time throwing sand bags around, so it could be fun to watch what he can do with opposing defensive linemen if he gets the opportunity.
— Boe Wilson (@boewilson56) March 19, 2018
Nebraska has a pair of veteran returning starters in Foster and Farmer, but both players have missed significant time with injury over the past couple of years and Nebraska needs a reliable back-up guard. Whether Wilson fills that role or even manages to jump ahead of one of the seniors, he should finally have a chance to make a difference in Lincoln.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.