Position battles: Part 1

BRR takes a look at some of the names to watch this spring when it comes to position battles.

Defensive end –

Candidates: Greg McMullen (So.), A.J. Natter (RFr.), and Joe Keels (Jr.)

Breakdown: The graduation of Jason Ankrah and the campus suspension of Avery Moss leaves a gapping hole opposite of junior All-Big Ten defensive end Randy Gregory. McMullen has the most D-1 experience, while Keels wasn't recruited out of junior college to sit on the sidelines. Throw in Natter, a former four-star product and coveted recruit just a few years ago, and the Huskers have some legit candidates. The dark horse of the group might be Natter, who impressed teammates on the scout team.

Prediction: This battle will head into the summer with no clear cut guy. McMullen is likely to get the most first-team reps because of his experience, but Keels will likely make a big jump this summer and early fall.

Back-up running back:

Candidates: Terrell Newby (So.), Imani Cross (Jr.), and Adam Taylor (RFr.)

Breakdown: It's likely Ameer Abdullah takes the similar path as Rex Burkhead a few springs ago – a very limited workload. It should give offensive coordinator Tim Beck plenty of chances to see what he's got working behind Abdullah in the stables. The guy who emerges as Abdullah's top back-up out of the spring will likely be the first back to get a crack at the starting job in 2015.

Prediction: Nebraska will come out of spring with Adam Taylor as their top back-up. The Huskers know what they have in Imani Cross, a big power back who can get the tough yards inside, but isn't the big threat to run outside the tackles. With Newby, the speedster can take it to the house at any given point, but does he 15-20 carries a game in him? Taylor is the blend of the two and while he's not as good as either back in their specific role, he's appears to be the more complete running back based on his senior highlights and scout team reports.

Imani Cross (Stewart Photography)


Candidates: Jonathan Rose (Jr.), Boaz Joseph (RFr.), and Byerson Cockrell (Jr.)

Breakdown: With a new position coach anything can happen, but the cornerback spot opposite of Josh Mitchell should be the most interesting battle of the spring. Rose has the most D-1 experience of the group, but expectations will be high for junior college corner Byerson Cockrell, who won a National Championship last year at East Mississippi.

Prediction: Cockrell's head will be spinning and Joseph won't be far enough along, meaning Rose will head to summer the starter by default. He was talented enough to hit the field at Auburn as a true-freshman and has pretty good size to be a physical corner. It's likely a position battle that will head into the fall.

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