Nebraska looks to finish out their Big 12 tenure in grand style and have the horses to do as much. The program has a lot of talent and the ability to make several BCS appearances over the next few seasons as well as continue to impact the NFL Draft.
The Cornhuskers have a ton of talent on the offensive line with several prominent juniors.
Marcel Jones is a large, athletic blocker who moves very well on his feet. Blocking with good lean, he gets his hands into defenders, keeps his feet moving and drives opponents off the line or engulfs them altogether. He’s very effective in motion showing the ability to pull across the line of scrimmage and gets out to the second level then annihilate linebackers. He must improve his use of angles but the NU lineman offers a tremendous upside.
Keith Williams is another nasty blocker that shows quickness if asked to kick out or pull. Sized well, Williams is strong at the point and explosive. He jolts defenders with great hand punch and is another very good blocking prospect.
Michael Smith is a small area blocker best suited for the strong side. Quick and explosive, he has nice length which allows him to block down on opponents. Smith does not show great balance or blocking agility.
The offense has a number of skill players that project well to the next level.
Niles Paul was rated by scouting services as the top receiver from the senior class and there’s a lot to like about his game. He’s a consistent hand catcher that displays eye/hand coordination as well as focus. Effectively extending his hands, Paul nicely adjusts to make the errant reception down field while running full speed and shows surprising quickness for a 220-pound wide out. He lacks the second gear and is a one speed receiver yet a prospect that could fill the role as a number two wide out in the NFL.
Roy Helu is a strong north/south runner that patiently waits for blocks to develop then hits the hole hard. A little straight-linish, he lacks the speed and agility to turn the corner.
Senior Mike McNeill is a reliable pass catcher that consistently extends to make the reception away from his frame and shows good eye/hand coordination. He finds the open spot on the field then uses his frame to shield away opponents and protect the pass. McNeill blocks with good knee bend but shows minimal strength at the point of attack. He’s a potential move tight end that could also fit a west coast offense.
The Blackshirts have a number of exciting players that grade as early first round selections as well as underrated prospects that will go in the late rounds.
We’ve discussed Prince Amukamara on a number of occasions and the cornerback enters the season as one of the two highest rated seniors in the country.
There’s a lot to like about Amukamara’s overall game. Fundamentally he’s fluid and smooth in all his mechanics. Quick pedaling in reverse, Amukamara flips his hips transitioning to run with opponents and is physical throughout the route. He does a good job in zone coverage, recognizing routes and following receivers out of their breaks. He has a nice burst to the action and voluntarily defends the run. At times Amukamara takes unwarranted chances which leads to receptions for the opposition but he has all the makings of a starting corner at the next level.
Alfonzo Dennard is not as skilled as his teammate to this point yet is someone who bears watching. Dennard displays a nice break to the throw and has a physical game.
Dejon Gomes is primarily used as the teams nickel back yet is a quality cornerback in his own right. He does a nice job reading and diagnosing the action, stays with assignments and takes proper angles to the action. Gomes is fast in a straight line or laterally and is always around the ball making plays. He shows good head for game and does a nice job getting his teammates in proper position.
Safety Eric Hagg is a guy we liked the more we watched him on film. Hagg plays smart football, works well with cornerbacks and constantly puts himself in a position to make plays on the ball. Occasionally lined over the slot receiver, he’s quick flipping his hips, shows good recognition and does a solid job in coverage. Physical, he shows toughness and aggressiveness defending the run. We really think he’s a guy with next level skill.
Jared Crick will be the center of attention on the defensive line now that Ndamukong Suh has graduated to the NFL. Crick plays with great explosion, displaying terrific first step quickness and uses his hands to get off blocks. Easily changing direction, he immediately alters his angle of attack to chase the action in pursuit. Crick must be more consistent playing low to the ground and must add football strength as he’s easily controlled at the point. He must also show he was more than just the beneficiary of the double and sometimes triple teaming of Suh the past few seasons.
Pierre Allen is a solid athlete that also makes plays in every direction of the field. He’s a decent pass rusher yet very slow to shed blocks once engaged at the point.