Husker players to keep an eye on tomorrow against Akron
The countdown to kickoff is just a day away and Nebraska is poised to put a brand new product on the field this fall. The offense is looking to add tempo and pick defenses apart with a multitude of misdirection. On the other side of the line, Erik Chinaders defense has taken off the leashes and turned the players loose. Will their newfound freedom to create, Nebraska’s defenders will with feast or famine.
With changes happening on and off the field, Nebraska will have several new and returning players to keep an eye on. Here’s a quick breakdown of three players on both sides of the ball to keep an eye on.
Offensive Players to Watch
We could name guys like the running backs and true freshman Adrian Martinez, but the truth is there are a lot of other guys to keep an eye on this weekend. Here are three guys on offense that should see a lot of playing time tomorrow
OC Cole Conrad (Senior) – A longtime Husker, Cole won the starting job over freshman Will Farniok and walk-on Hunter Miller. The Huskers will need a big season from Conrad as there is little to no depth behind him and center is one of the hardest and most important positions on the field.
What to watch – We’ve heard and seen a few bad snaps from the centers in fall camp. Watch to see how well Conrad is getting the ball back to the quarterback. In addition to hiking the ball, Conrad will need to control the middle of the line if the Huskers want to have a turnaround season. Watch to see how he handles pressure Akron is sure to throw at the unproven senior. Can he handle blitzes and pressures with the rest of the interior lineman?
WR Mike Williams (Junior) – A junior college transfer, Mike Williams has earned a starting spot on the Huskers depth chart after a consistent spring and fall camp. Williams is a good in-between wide receiver compared to Stanley Morgan and JD Spielman and will have a lot of opportunities to make a name for himself this fall.
What to watch – With defenses rightfully keying in on Morgan and Spielman, Williams will have the chance to come out of the gates swinging early and often. He’s got deceptive speed and is a terrific route runner so watch to see how he gets off the line of scrimmage and if he can slip behind the defense’s secondary as they put a heavy focus on two of the Big Ten’s leading wide receivers in Morgan/Spielman.
TE Jack Stoll (Sophmore) – We’ve heard a lot about the sophomore tight end out of Colorado in fall camp. Coaches calling him consistent and one of the most well rounded tight ends is a heavy compliment. With offensive coordinator Troy Walters’ scheme calling for more use of the tight-end Stoll could be set for a break out season.
What to watch – The new offensive scheme should have the tight-ends doing a variety of things. Keep an eye on Stoll when he’s motioned out as a wide receiver as you should see him setting blocks out on the edge and getting a few passes as well. Watch to see if they use him as a decoy early on and then later on send him on routes across the linebackers faces to pull open wide receivers or set an “inadvertent” pick or scrape.
Defensive Players to Watch
So many names to watch on defense! There’s a variety of players to talk about here with so many new faces making a splash in fall camp that you could keep an eye on. Guys like the inside linebackers Mohamed Barry and Will Honas get an honorable mention
S Deontai Williams/Tre Neal (So/Sr) – Nebraska fans have undoubtedly heard about Tre Neal and rightfully so. The senior transfer from UCF brings an immersive knowledge of the Huskers new defense with him and will be leaned on early to help ensure the defense is getting aligned properly. On top of his knowledge, Neal is a good safety and should have a positive impact on the team. Deontai Williams is the junior college transfer and while he’s not listed as a starter, we’ve heard he’s made his presence felt and loves to hit.
What to watch – Early on, watch Neal to see how he’s helping other get lined up and making adjustments for the defense pre-snap. After every play he may be helping coach up others on the defense to make sure guys are all on the same page. His knowledge will be a huge asset to the defense early on. Williams will likely rotate in but should see a heavy dose of playing time. Watch to see when he’s on the field, is it a nickel formation or dime formation he’s involved in? Is he coming up and plugging holes the linebackers vacate or sliding down to the line of scrimmage for a safety blitz? He’s definitely one to watch that the coaches are silently very excited about.
OLB Tyrin Ferguson (Sophomore)- Ferguson has taken an unconventional path to get to his starting position today. He played in 10 games as a true freshman back in 2015 and then took an unconventional redshirt as a true sophomore. Redshirts are typically done when you’re a freshman but Ferguson is mature beyond his years and recognized that with all the competition a redshirt would benefit him as he could get bigger/faster by sitting a year, one year after his redshirt season, he’s locked in a starting role in Chinaders new defense.
What to watch – Ferguson will be asked to do a variety of things, but more than anything else he will be called upon to provide coverage against slot receivers and out in the flats near the line of scrimmage. Can he be a force in helping collapse the edge of the offense on running plays? Does he have the quickness to blitz off the edge in obvious passing downs?
DE Freedom Akinmoladun (Senior) – It’s Freedom’s final go around as a Husker and he looks to go out with a fourth of July style bang. Freedom made immense progress during the spring and has become a disruptive force in practices off the edge. Nebraska has a lacked a true pass rushing defensive end ever since Randy Gregory left for the NFL Draft and Freedom is finally in a place where he can fill that role for the Huskers.
What to watch – The Blackshirts will show a lot of 3 man fronts so watch to see how active Freedom is with his hands on passing plays. In obvious passing situations (3rd and long) watch to see if he elevates his play to a different level. Freedom will likely be involved in a lot of stunting on passing plays so keep an eye on him during obvious passing situations to see if he stunts (drops into coverage so a LB can blitz, or a LB shows blitz and Freedom rushes). His success at the defensive end position will go a long way in determining the Blackshirt’s overall success this season.
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