While the NFL free agency period also has produced a few jaw-dropping trades, we've seen some of college football’s biggest names find new homes as well. The graduate transfer market brings about the opportunity for a fresh start and every team can use some help plugging holes, solidifying depth or both. Nebraska kept some scholarships in their back pocket following February's National Signing Day for just such supplemental talent should the need arise.
Spring football takes a hiatus this week as spring break washes over campus, but all roster problems – current or potential – can’t be addressed over a few weeks of practice in March and April. When the dust settles following the April 13 Red-White Spring Game, here are three names that would fit in well with potential to make an immediate impact.
RB Taj Griffin (Oregon)
Regardless of how Maurice Washington's legal situation fleshes out, the Cornhuskers still have uncertainty in the running back room. There's a great deal of potential in junior college transfer Dedrick Mills along with true freshmen Ronald Thompkins and Rahmir Johnson, but the fact remains that they are unknown quantities.
Griffin, on the other hand, not only has experience at the FBS level but comes from an Oregon program that provides him the opportunity to feel right at home in Scott Frost’s offense in Lincoln. He actually began his career playing under Frost in 2015 when Nebraska’s head man was the Ducks’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Griffin opened that season with a 110-yard performance against Colorado. He would finish with 570 rushing yards and 162 receiving, both encouraging numbers.
Consider the fact that Washington had 455 yards and three touchdowns on the ground to go with 221 receiving yards and a score as a true freshman last season. Should he not be able to go in 2019 for one reason or another, Nebraska would have a back in Griffin that should fit the offense like a glove. If Washington resolves his legal issues and is deemed eligible to play, the two could make Frost’s attack even more deadly. This also would allow Mills, Thompkins, and Johnson more time to get their sea legs under them, improve their skill sets to do greater damage as 2019 rolls on, and firm up their roles for '20.
There are some eligibility questions that must be answered when it comes to Griffin's status, however. In Griffin's case, he may not have any more eligibility should he choose to transfer to any FBS school, including Nebraska, due to the complexity of the new redshirt rule, according to this CBSSports.com article. This is obviously something that Griffin, as well as Nebraska, would want clarification on before making any plans.
OG Cody Wheeler (Texas Tech)
The Air Raid has seen plenty of evolution from Hal Mumme to Mike Leach, Kliff Kingsbury, and others. Wheeler obviously wouldn’t be switching to an Air Raid attack at Nebraska, per se. However, an offensive lineman that is familiar with an up-tempo scheme that requires blocking for both a throwing quarterback and speedy running backs could help cement an interior front five that’s in a state of substantial flux.
The Huskers do have Boe Wilson returning, who proved to be vital to scoring efficiency last season. Elsewhere, the likes of Cam Jurgens, Hunter Miller, Will Farniok, Trent Hixson and others are working diligently to help offensive line coach Greg Austin at least pencil in a starting five for fall camp. As Big Red fans saw over the first four games of 2018, it can take several quarters for an eventual effective starting offensive line to take shape.
With Wheeler’s familiarity of a tempo like the one Frost demands, he could build a rapport with Nebraska’s quarterbacks that could aid in immediate depth at center – arguably the front five’s most uncertain spot.
OLB Arrington Farrar (Wisconsin)
Considering the Huskers are employing a 3-4 alignment, not unlike what the Badgers use, Farrar offers an interesting option. Having played at safety as a true freshman, the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder failed to shove Christian Bell out of the two-deep, prompting Farrar to look for greener pastures. His path to an exterior 3-4 linebacker spot is not unlike Jojo Domann’s, Domann has spent time at safety and outside linebacker for Nebraska defensive coordinator Erik Chinander. This lends to the idea that Farrar might make an excellent choice opposite Tyrin Ferguson.
There’s plenty Chinander could do with the trio of Ferguson, Domann, and Farrar. Perhaps the most lethal option for the Blackshirts would be to have Ferguson and Farrar man the exterior linebacker spots while Domann plays the Huskers’ “Cinco” role. This would provide hard-hitters on both ends of the linebacking corps and give Domann opportunities to be an enforcer in sync with the secondary while still being able to directly assist the front seven on occasion.
If nothing else, Farrar’s knowledge of the Badgers’ physicality and style of 3-4 play could prove invaluable as the Huskers look to develop their own brand of the defense that put UCF on the map in 2017.
— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, FWAA member and part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow him on Twitter (@eightlaces) and enjoy the Eight Laces podcast. To contact him with tips, story ideas or for interview purposes, click here.