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Most Intriguing Huskers: No. 28, redshirt freshman DB Noa Pola-Gates
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Most Intriguing Huskers: No. 28, redshirt freshman DB Noa Pola-Gates

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Nebraska football practice, 4.17

Safety Noa Pola-Gates gets into position for a drill during a football practice Saturday, April 17 at Memorial Stadium.

As the countdown to the beginning of Nebraska’s preseason camp continues, the Journal Star is counting down its annual list of the 30 Most Intriguing Huskers.

The list, as always, is not about the 30 best players or the 30 most important players, but is based instead purely on intrigue. We’ll cover breakout candidates, new faces, old heads and more. The list tends to skew toward youth and inexperience because, well, those types of players are intriguing. But there are more than a few regulars, too.

No. 30: Thomas Fidone, tight end, freshman

No. 29: Will Nixon, wide receiver, freshman

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No. 28: DB Noa Pola-Gates, rfr. 

Nebraska secondary coach Travis Fisher has such faith in his safety pair of Pola-Gates and Myles Farmer behind seniors Deontai Williams and Marquel Dismuke that he referred to them as 1.5s rather than No. 2s this spring. 

Pola-Gates and Farmer likely thought they'd be thrust into starting roles in 2021, but the pandemic and the NCAA's scholarship rules gave the senior pair the option of returning for sixth collegiate seasons and both decided to take advantage. 

That means Pola-Gates, who is one of the most athletic players on Nebraska's roster, may have to wait another year before stepping into a full-time role in Erik Chinander's defense, barring an injury to a starter. However, he will still likely factor into the equation somehow. Fisher could try to manage the workload of his seniors. Pola-Gates, too, is athletic enough to potentially man a nickel-type spot, depending on the package. 

There's another route to the field, too: special teams. Nebraska needs to be much better in that area in 2021 than it has been the past three years, and explosive players such as Pola-Gates are often the key to having solid coverage units. Fisher said this spring, "You have to start on at least one special teams (unit) to be a DB here. Period. All right? Or you will not play." 

Pola-Gates will likely be on more than one. Beyond that, how much can he press to get on the field defensively? In a veteran group, that's an intriguing subplot to track this fall.

Parker Gabriel

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The series continues with offense this week. No better place to start than quarterback, right?

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NU's safeties benefited from the extra year of eligibility, as Marquel Dismuke and Deontai Williams both return for sixth seasons.

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Cam Taylor-Britt has ascended into a face-of-the-program type player and perhaps the best player on the roster. But is there enough depth?

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Luke Reimer, Chris Kolarevic and Nick Henrich are a strong trio at the top. But this is the Big Ten. Who can be the fourth man? The fifth? 

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You followed along all spring. Who's your standout player from the outside linebacker group? How about the "stock-riser?" Compare notes with us.

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Defensive line coach Tony Tuioti said he has at least six players he can trust and potentially seven, but it’s unclear if any of NU’s next wave of players will crack the rotation this fall.

Contact the writer at pgabriel@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.

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Husker football reporter

Parker joined the Journal Star as the University of Nebraska football beat writer in August 2017. He previously covered Montana State athletics for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2012.

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