Dedrick Young appears poised to be an anchor of the Cornhuskers' new-look defense
Nebraska football fans have shown that they’re more than ready for the Scott Frost era to begin. The Spring Game sold out. Fan Day saw 8,000 scarlet-clad Big Red backers wrapped around a good chunk of the stadium with only 500 able to actually meet Frost after waiting two-and-a-half hours. Suffice it to say Husker Nation is ready for the Sept. 1 opener versus Akron.
However, fall camp is still ongoing and no starting quarterback has been named as of this writing. That said, there are five players whose bandwagon you might want to consider jumping on regardless of which signal-caller you’re hitching your wagon to (at least initially.)
Maurice Washington, RB
The love for quarterback Adrian Martinez has been off the charts since his commitment and has only escalated since he hit campus. However, no player has seen the exponential increase in hype that Washington has, and for good reason.
Running backs do both coaches and fans a favor, because it’s incredibly obvious when you’ve found a guy with “it.”
To quote Washington’s former high school coach Deion Sanders (yes, THAT Deion Sanders), “[Washington] has a gift, man. Whatever college he chooses, he’s gonna be a day one starter. [Washington]’s got that ‘ooo-wee.’ You know, like that ‘oooo-weeeee!’”
While he may not technically get the first carry in the Frost era, don’t be surprised if he gets almost as many carries as if he was one of the feature backs in the Scott Frost offense. In fact, history suggests he’ll touch the ball plenty as a runner, let alone thanks to any catches he makes out of the backfield.
Andre Hunt, WR
If Nebraska has one unit that looks ready to help contend for a Big Ten title, it’s the wide receiver corps. Stanley Morgan Jr. and JD Spielman are already household names. Tyjon Lindsey, Jaevon McQuitty and junior college transfers Mike Williams and Jaron Woodyard are poised to make noise, as well.
However, Hunt, the one-time USC commit, provides a target that offers an even speedier option than any of the above and none of them are slow by any means. At 6-foot and 190 pounds, Hunt possesses the physicality to bump defensive backs off the line and head for daylight in a hurry.
Don’t be shocked to see another No. 15 to fall in love with following De'Mornay Pierson-El’s departure.
Dedrick Young, ILB
As a freshman, Young looked like the future of the position. Then, expectations were tempered during what was arguably a sophomore slump and a junior season where he found himself looking as confused as everyone else during Bob Diaco’s lone year as defensive coordinator.
Under the tutelage of Barrett Ruud, he looks to not only return to peak condition but lead a solid interior linebacking corps by example. Initially, it looked like junior college transfer Will Honas would get the starting nod. However, thanks to offseason dedication and having been at the collegiate level for much longer, Young is on track to hold down the top role and earn a Blackshirt.
Mohamed Barry, ILB
Many Husker fans have been waiting for Barry to break out and it appears that his time is now. The Grayson, Georgia, native not only has impressive size (6-1, 230), but his speed gives him the ability to crash gaps opened up front and stop ball carriers short if not wreak havoc in the backfield.
It’s taken Barry some time to get out of the gate, but with Ruud and defensive coordinator Erik Chinander guiding him, Barry has all of the tools to be a disruptive force next to Young and his other colleagues in the middle of the linebacking corps in 2018.
Tre Neal, S
Neal didn’t come from UCF as a graduate transfer to sit. Naturally, his knowledge of Chinander’s system is a big help for a secondary that not only needed to learn it quickly, but needed a talent infusion. Keep in mind that Nebraska’s safety depth chart is actually rather crowded with Antonio Reed, Jojo Domann, Marquel Dismuke along with incoming true freshmen Cam Taylor and Deontai Williams. That’s not even the full list.
While the competition at the position has been fierce, Neal is shaking free from the pack and if he continues to improve as quickly as he has, seeing him start opposite one of the aforementioned safeties would be incredibly appropriate.
-- Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, FWAA member and part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow him on Twitter (@eightlaces), and keep up with the Quick N Dirty podcasts on his Patreon page.