These young players could play big roles thanks to the departure of some significant talent
National Signing Day is over, Tommy Armstrong graduates in May and – thanks to the hiring of a new defensive coordinator – the Cornhuskers are switching up their defensive approach.
It's a new day in Nebraska.
With that new day come new faces. Some of those faces have a chance to become very familiar to fans in Lincoln's Memorial Stadium come September.
Here are five Nebraska newcomers to watch in 2017.
Avery Roberts, LB
The 4-star prospect out of Delaware is going to remind a lot of Husker faithful of Lavonte David, thanks to his speed and athleticism at the position. With the departure of Josh Banderas and Michael Rose-Ivey, there are some jobs open and some big spots to fill in the Blackshirt linebacker corps. Roberts is talented and mature enough to compete for serious playing time immediately.
Tyjon Lindsey, WR
The losses of Jordan Westerkamp and Brandon Reilly to graduation opens the door for the talented Lindsey to claim a starting role as a true freshman. He's an explosive playmaker similar in style to a wide receiver Mike Riley coached at Oregon State – Brandin Cooks. The possibility of him joining Stanley Morgan and DeMornay Pierson-El as starters for the season opener is something that probably warms the hearts of both Riley and the Husker faithful. You could argue that the Huskers have never had a collection of big-play threats at the position like they'll have in 2017.
Elijah Blades, CB
Blades is a tall (6-2) corner who plays wise beyond his years. He'll add some needed weight over the summer. Once he does, look for him to get plenty of early reps during non-conference play and be ready to contribute regularly after the Big Ten slate gets underway. His size and length could end up being a huge asset against some of the conference’s bigger receivers.
Damion Daniels, DL
The shift to Bob Diaco's 3-4 defensive alignment requires the need for playmaking space-eaters in the interior of the line. Thomas, a 6-foot-1, 315-pound Dallas native, arrives ready to play a part in filling that role. He may not start immediately, but he'll get plenty of snaps and provide invaluable depth to a unit that will be leaned on heavily in 2017.
Patrick O'Brien, QB
O'Brien is a redshirt freshman, but he’s still a newcomer since he’s yet to take a single snap in a game. The former Elite 11 recruit has had a year to learn Riley's system and get comfortable in his surroundings. He'll take part in the first true preseason quarterback battle in Lincoln in four years. If he loses that battle, it will be to Tulane transfer Tanner Lee. Any way it shakes out, the talent gap between Nebraska's starting quarterback and backup will be closer than it has been in a couple of years.
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.