Players like Mick Stoltenberg may not have put up huge numbers, but their impact on the team has been immeasureable
This weekend, 19 members of the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team will trot onto the turf of Memorial Stadium for the final time against the Michigan State Spartans. Scott Frost’s first senior class won’t see a bowl game or even a .500 season, but they are a significant bunch. If Frost’s future teams clinch the Big Ten West, capture Nebraska’s first conference title since 1999 or go onto even bigger things, this is the class that will have set the tone.
Within those 20 players, there are five notable ones that the current roster and future members of the team can look to most for encouragement.
Devine Ozigbo, RB
Coming into 2018, junior college transfer Greg Bell seemed like the would-be bell cow of the running backs, but he wouldn’t even last the season in Lincoln. Following Ozigbo’s first start of the year against Purdue, Bell handed in his scarlet and cream gear. As it turns out, this was a sign of big things to come.
Heading into Nebraska’s final home game, Ozigbo is just 42 yards away from becoming the Huskers' first 1,000-yard rusher since Ameer Abdullah in 2014. Ozigbo's story is one of perseverance that any member of the roster can look to as proof that if you keep your nose to the grindstone, you can eventually come out ahead.
Stanley Morgan Jr., WR
Nebraska has never claimed a 1,000-yard receiver in its 128 years of football, but Morgan is 144 yards away from that distinction and just 90 yards away from surpassing Kenny Bell as the program's all-time leader. Morgan shunned an early departure and has been a major reason why Frost’s offense is one of the most efficient in the country. He also has proven invaluable as a mentor to younger members of the receiving corps. Who can fill his shoes is already one of the biggest questions for 2019.
Bryan Reimers, WR
Reimers isn’t the flashiest receiver you’ll ever meet, but not unlike Ozigbo, he has stuck around when he easily could’ve departed. He hasn’t been targeted anywhere near the number of times Morgan or sophomore JD Spielman, among others. However, he has provided some clutch catches that have reminded fans why he impressed prior to Frost’s arrival and why he continues to see the field. Reimers' blocking skills also are an important reminder to all who will come after him that if you can’t excel in doing that in Frost’s offense, you won’t see the opportunity to catch any balls.
Tanner Farmer, OL
A fan favorite for his name alone, Farmer has provided Nebraska with an extremely versatile lineman during his tenure. Having spent a good chunk of his career at guard, he has proven more than capable at center after taking over for Cole Conrad. It has helped immensely that he’s bought into both Frost’s vision and the coaching of Greg Austin, a former Husker offensive lineman himself.
Farmer shows us the type of broad skill set Nebraska will be looking for in several of its interior offensive linemen moving forward. They do want prototypical players across the line, but having “plug-and-play” types such as the Highland, Illinois, native keeps a very dangerous offense humming should the worst happen up front.
Mick Stoltenberg, NT
The first nose tackle under defensive coordinator Erik Chinander isn’t a perfect fit. Stoltenberg may have a future as a 4-3 defensive tackle considering his size as you don’t see many 6-foot-5 guys anchoring the middle of the defensive line. However, he has still done his best to provide a challenge for opposing offenses to push around. As a captain, rallying his teammates and providing leadership on and off of the field also has been a vital part of his role and something he's done extremely well.
He’s been battling injury over these past few weeks. However, he continues to fight on, setting a good example to follow in the process. Following last week’s win over Illinois, Frost noted that Stoltenberg gave an impassioned speech to the locker room. According to Nebraska’s head coach, he never had to step in and say one word, which is just how he likes it moving forward.
— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, FWAA member and part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow him on Twitter (@eightlaces).