As it stands, the Nebraska Cornhuskers' 2020 schedule has already been made treacherous by nixing non-conference games entirely. This means no chances for early repetition and confidence-building against Central Michigan and FCS opponent South Dakota State. As a result, Scott Frost's squad either starts strong or ample disappointment may be in the cards yet again.
That said, five members of the roster can make a considerable impact and prevent further headaches for their head coach moving forward:
Zavier Betts, WR
The top in-state prospect of the 2020 recruiting cycle, Betts brings yet another dynamic threat to the revamped Nebraska receiving corps. His talent demands opposing defensive coordinators take him seriously him as a potential No. 3 wideout used often alongside Wan'Dale Robinson and Omar Manning.
Yes, a rotation that features youngsters like Jamie Nance, Alante Brown, and Demariyon Houston, among others, is a step in the right direction. But the spark Betts can add even as a true freshman is significant and offers Frost a unique talent to threaten defenses with.
Bryce Benhart, OL
The likely new starter at right tackle, Benhart's presence allows Matt Farniok to slip inside next to him at guard. This helps position coach Greg Austin address glaring problems Nebraska suffered at interior offensive line positions over the past two seasons. We remove Benhart from the equation and Farniok moves back outside, while uncertainty reigns yet again. In this scenario, start-and-stop breakdowns like those the Huskers suffered last season become unavoidable.
Ty Robinson, DL
Defensive line coach Tony Tuioti will earn every cent of his paycheck in 2020 since he has to replace an entire starting group. He must develop a front that featured the physicality and athleticism that brothers Khalil and Carlos Davis flashed along with nose tackle Darrion Daniels. While Daniels's younger brother Damion may fill his shoes, the Big Red needs beasts on the outside.
Enter Robinson. The redshirt freshman has a proper frame (6-6, 315) for the gig and was a crown jewel of the 2019 recruiting class. Deontre Thomas, Casey Rogers, and others will push for playing time, but despite his inexperience at the college level, Robinson has an incredible upside. Even if he takes a few lumps early in the learning process, he could cement himself as a multi-year starter.
Eteva Mauga-Clements, LB
Collin Miller's starting role is practically written in Sharpie. Who plays opposite him is up in the air, though. Will Honas often shows excellent instincts but he has durability issues, while Luke Reimer has been adequate in relief. And there simply isn't enough film to put together a complete scouting report on Nick Henrich or Garrett Snodgrass.
Mauga-Clements provides an immediate answer to these concerns. Should Honas step up his play and perform at the level expected during his recruitment, he likely starts barring further injury. He'll be pushed by the incoming junior college transfer, but his level of participation at the Power 5 level affords a major advantage. However, a head-to-head battle could still see the new addition take over. If Honas has to sit again, he paves the way for the Samoan to sit atop the depth chart permanently.
Chase Contreraz/Gabe Heins/Tyler Crawford, K
Following the absolute disaster that was the Huskers' 2019 kicking unit, Nebraska needs to not only establish a clear starter but success in 2020 demands they take part in every game. The contrast between how well Husker teams of the past have done with a regular placekicker versus what Frost saw last year is rather stark. The experience did nothing but amplify the necessity of rhythm in his kicking game. Nebraska can't afford a disruption to that degree again if the program is to take another step in the right direction.