With a new coaching staff in town, the opportunity presented itself to several members of the Nebraska football program to stand out. In turn, some Nebraska players took advantage of the clean slate to make names for themselves.
Most of the breakout candidates wound up being newcomers, too. That being said, there’s a good chance a sizable portion of the contributions during the 2018 season will come from players who were not on last season’s roster when the Cornhuskers went 4-8.
Here are five players who differentiated themselves during spring ball and expect to make big impacts when the season rolls around:
Adrian Martinez’s performance during the spring game on Saturday warranted his spot on this list, regardless of how he did throughout spring practice. However, his reviews from the practice sessions were equally impressive. The 4-star early enrollee has placed himself firmly in the quarterback competition, along with Tristan Gebbia and Andrew Bunch.
He accounted for 4 total touchdowns during the spring game, 1 through the air and 3 on the ground. Martinez demonstrated he’s certainly athletic enough to be the guy in Scott Frost’s system. He completed 10 of his 13 passes during the exhibition, mostly dispelling the questions surrounding the shoulder injury that inhibited him from playing his senior season of high school football.
“The one thing that impresses me is his composure,” Frost said. “As an 18-year-old that should still be in high school, to come out and do some good things, that was a good job.
When you consider the freshman is still adjusting to college life, learning a complex offensive scheme and handling a highly-publicized position battle with poise, all while playing well, Martinez is an easy breakout candidate.
The other backfield spot might have a leader in the clubhouse. As a junior college signee, Greg Bell enrolled with expectations for playing time, but he’s potentially primed himself for the starting role. At least, he’s earned the right for starter reps to begin fall camp.
“Greg’s got a gear that’s pretty special,” Frost said. “He’s got good vision. He’s gotta get lined up a little faster and be a little more urgent sometimes, but he does some special things with the ball in his hands.”
The coaching staff complimented Bell’s play when asked who had stood out during practice. In the spring game, Bell rushed eight times for 54 yards, averaging 6.8 yards per carry.
Like Bell, Mike Williams was a junior college transfer who hoped to make an immediate impact in the passing game as a deep threat. Working with strength and conditioning coach Zach Duval upon enrolling, Williams added 11 pounds of muscle heading into spring ball in order to add physicality to complement his speed.
Williams caught a touchdown in the spring game.
Another junior college transfer, Will Honas was one of the pleasant surprises during the early signing period. Scouting reports indicated he could contribute at inside linebacker right away. Reports out of spring ball indicated he should be in line to do just that.
If anything, Honas’ effort and mentality of seeking the ball will earn him playing time.
“Will Honas played really hard,” Frost said after the game. “He’s been playing hard all spring.”
The up-tempo, high-octane style of offense offered a unique chance for skill position players to step up and earn time. After taking a redshirt last season, Jaevon McQuitty came out determined to carve out a niche in the offense. It looks like he’s done that, seeing time as a slot receiver.
McQuitty hauled in a 23-yard score from Martinez on Saturday, streaking up the seam into the defense’s soft spot for an easy touchdown.