Including expected additions to the program that have not yet been added to the roster, Nebraska’s roster stands at 152 names. Of that 152, 82 are scholarship players, leaving Nebraska three short of the limit of 85.
If the Huskers don’t add any further scholarship players, Coach Scott Frost should have two or three scholarships to use however he sees fit. One potential use for those scholarships is to reward walk-ons who have earned their way towards the top of the depth chart.
Who are the top candidates? There are a few names that instantly jump to mind.
Sophomore Guard Trent Hixson
The 6-foot-4, 300-pound redshirt sophomore out of Omaha Skutt began his career at tackle but has since moved inside to guard, his more natural position in Nebraska’s system according to line coach Greg Austin, and he appears poised to earn the starting left guard spot.
He appeared in four games off the bench last season and was a member of the travel roster for all five road games. He redshirted his first season as a Husker.
Boe Wilson, who took over the starting right guard spot when Cole Conrad suffered an injury and Tanner Farmer slid inside to center, appears to have that spot locked down again for next season. But Jerald Foster’s departure left an opening on the other side and Hixson was the guy working with the first team all spring and starting for the Red Team in the Spring Game, ahead of a handful of scholarship players.
If a guy is good enough to start, he’s probably good enough to be placed on scholarship.
Sophomore Wide Receiver Kade Warner
The son of Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner made something of a name for himself at Nebraska as a redshirt freshman wide receiver. At 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, Warner worked initially in the slot but cracked the starting lineup at flanker midway through the season when other guys weren’t getting it done to the coaches’ satisfaction and he started seven of the final nine games.
Warner’s blocking got him onto the field, but he also caught 17 passes for 95 yards. He’s second on the team in receptions among returning wideouts and is third in receiving yards. With other scholarship receivers failing to separate themselves, Warner continued to get first and second team reps throughout the spring and caught both of his targets in the Spring Game for 58 yards.
As I said with Hixson, if he’s good enough to start he’s good enough to be on scholarship.
Senior Punter Isaac Armstrong
Armstrong joined the team as a walk-on after spending his first year at Nebraska as just a student. He served as Caleb Lightbourn’s back-up for two seasons before winning the starting job from Lightbourn last season. He started the last seven games at punter and averaged 43.6 yards per punt which would put him in the midst of the Big Ten’s best if he had enough punts to qualify. He has also served as the team’s holder on kicks for the last two seasons.
Lightbourn entered the NCAA Transfer Portal after the Spring Game and the starting job looks to be Armstrong’s once again. If he’s able to maintain his production form the second half of last season, he’ll be one of the team’s more valuable players and it’s hard to argue against that being worth a scholarship.
The three above are all projected starters right now, and one would think they’d be at the top of the list in terms of awarding scholarships. However, there are a handful of other walk-ons who have earned plenty of buzz throughout the spring.
Junior quarterback Andrew Bunch served as the primary back-up to Adrian Martinez last season. Noah Vedral appears to have earned that job after the spring and Bunch did explore transfer options, but he decided to return to Nebraska and offers veteran depth.
Interior offensive lineman Hunter Miller, cornerback Ethan Cox and inside linebacker Joseph Johnson have all received buzz over the last calendar year for the work they’ve done in practices and could be key depth pieces next season. Senior defensive lineman Fyn Anderson could be another option if the coaches want to go the route of rewarding an upperclassmen. He’s adding depth at nose tackle and earned a mention from position coach Tony Tuioti during the spring. Interior lineman AJ Forbes could be on track to earn a scholarship at some point in his career as well, even if it isn’t this year.
Brody Belt was a hot name during the spring and showed off what he could do in the Spring Game. With Nebraska’s uncertain backfield, he could hear his name called come the fall. Could he follow in the footsteps of fellow versatile running back Wyatt Mazour, who was placed on scholarship last season?
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.