The bulk of Nebraska's 2019 football class has signed on and it’s time for the Cornhuskers' coaching staff to identify prospects whose stock is ready to rise in a big way between now and February. In the meantime, let’s take a microscope to Nebraska’s freshly-minted early haul and have a look at five players who could see significant playing time in 2019 as true freshmen.
For clarification’s sake, we’ll define "significant time" as playing in more than four games which would eliminate the ability to claim a redshirt year.
Wandale Robinson, ATH
In 2018, the Big Ten experienced Rondale Moore. It may very well get a second helping of amazing athleticism in Robinson, an all-everything athlete out of Kentucky who spurned Mark Stoops and the Wildcats for the Big Red. A Swiss Amy knife, Robinson projects immediately to the Duck-R position in Scott Frost’s offense which is essentially a hybrid running back/wide receiver. He also could see time on both punt and kick returns. Bottom line: He’s too good to keep off the field and Nebraska’s visit to Purdue should be a showdown with plenty of fireworks between Robinson and the sensational Moore.
Ty Robinson, DE
It’s extremely rare for a lineman to step in and be immediately effective on either side of the ball. That said, if any signee from this class can do it, it’s Robinson. Nebraska needs to improve its pass rush in a big way and the 6-foot-6, 285-pounder out of Gilbert, Arizona, has the ability to do just that. It wouldn’t be a shock to see defensive coordinator Erik Chinander immediately let Robinson loose in the Huskers' season opener versus South Alabama and repeatedly challenge his comfort zone throughout the year. Admittedly, the likelihood of this projection would be higher if he was headed to Lincoln in January.
Nick Henrich, ILB
While Robinson won’t be joining the Big Red until later on in 2019, Henrich will be in Lincoln shortly and participating in strength and conditioning coach Zach Duval's program. The starting spot opposite interior linebacker Mohamed Barry is up for grabs. Nebraska's native son (from Omaha) should at least end up in the rotation which would see him gain plenty of snaps in Chinander’s system considering he substitutes liberally. His primary competition on the roster includes redshirt junior Will Honas and senior Jacob Weinmaster.
Jackson Hannah, ILB
But hold the phone! There’s competition from within this very class thanks to Hannah. The Tennessean won’t be showing up early, but from a pure athleticism standpoint, he appears to be more naturally gifted than Henrich out of the gate. That’s no slight towards the Omaha born-and-raised linebacker, either. An organic battle for playing time between the two looks inevitable. The good news for both is that Hannah's style allows Chinander to be very flexible and potentially shift him outside. In fact, if Henrich develops quickly over the winter and the two are even heading into fall camp, you may see both of them on the field at the same time.
Javin Wright, CB
The Huskers' roster is thin on true cornerbacks and the depth chart is wide open behind junior Dicaprio Bootle and senior Lamar Jackson, making the position an obvious area of concern. Wright, the son of former Nebraska defender Toby Wright, has excellent size (6-3, 195) already. Fans could very well see him groomed to take over for Jackson considering the size difference between the two is 20 pounds in Jackson’s favor. Wright also already has the violent streak Chinander likes in a boundary cornerback, something that Jackson was able to uncork as the 2018 season progressed. Seeing Wright getting some licks in on special teams also seems probable.
— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, FWAA member and part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow him on Twitter (@eightlaces).
(Top photo courtesy of @HuskerFBNation)