Depending on the program, first-year players are either destined to redshirt or have the opportunity to compete for playing time right away, depending on how ready they are for the college game.
And in Scott Frost’s first year at Nebraska, nearly everyone will have the opportunity to move their way up the depth chart, and that goes for the incoming freshmen and transfers at basically every position.
Let’s take a look at the candidates most likely to see the field early during their tenures as Huskers.
At quarterback, Adrian Martinez has the opportunity to start. He will compete with Tristan Gebbia for the starting role beginning during spring ball. Martinez is well-suited to operate in Frost’s system, but he will have to earn it.
Greg Bell can see a bulk of carries out of the backfield, especially if there’s continued concern over Tre Bryant’s knee. Incoming freshman Maurice Washington could also see some time at running back early on.
Miles Jones is a key player to watch on offense. The Huskers will use him at both running back and wide receiver. They will try to get the ball in his hands when they see fit, and they won’t be shy about spotlighting him. Also at receiver, junior-college transfer Mike Williams could be a sleeper and be a valuable option in the passing game next season.
Frost also mentioned Justin McGriff, a 6-foot-6 receiver, as someone who could make an impact out wide to begin with and then eventually at tight end.
The defensive side of ball also has a couple of prospects who could see early playing time.
Will Honas is the most logical choice. In fact, the inside linebacker who transferred from the junior-college ranks could command a starting role by the time next season starts.
The team certainly needs pass-rushers to step up, and Caleb Tannor might be able to fill that role. The 4-star prospect signed with Nebraska on Wednesday and will have the chance to compete, although his body might not be ready just yet. David Alston is another outside linebacker and could be a sleeper.
The secondary likely will see plenty of new bodies in 2018. Another junior college transfer, Deontai Williams, will slot into the nickel position nicely. Cam Taylor and Braxton Clark will receive looks at cornerback. The safety tandem of C.J. Smith and Cam’ron Jones has serious potential. Expect Jones to be receive an extended look during training camp and for him to contribute early.
Early enrollee Barret Pickering is expected to compete for the starting kicker job. Pickering was a 3-star recruit and has a good leg, but it will be interesting to see if he will have enough strength and accuracy to win the job.
Cam Jones was an accomplished return man in high school, so it wouldn’t be too surprising if the Huskers let him demonstrate what he can do with the ball in his hands. It’s just another way the talented prospect could compete for playing time.