It far from guarantees on-field success for the following year, but it warrants attention each year when the Huskers announce their scout-team MVPs at the annual football team banquet.

It's an interesting thing to see who has impressed coaches and peers away from public view.

This fall, it was redshirting linebacker Pernell Jefferson and defensive end Collin Miller who earned the honor on defense. On offense, perhaps to no surprise to those who have been listening and reading the words of coaches recently, it was transfer quarterback Tanner Lee and true freshman receiver JD Spielman.

Again, this doesn't always signal a jump to a starting role in the upcoming year. Sometimes it as much to honor good teamwork behind the scenes.

Last year's 2015 scout-team MVPs were Alex Davis, Reid Karel, Christian Bailey and Jalin Barnett.

In 2014, lineman Jerald Foster was a scout-team MVP. While he impressed the new staff the next year, it took until 2016 until he was on the top line of the depth chart.

So take it for what it is.

But when you think of those behind the scenes who might be ready to become key factors in 2017, Lee and Spielman are no doubt at the top of the wish list for many Husker fans.

Both certainly make the list below of offensive players who didn't play this past fall but are worth monitoring in the offseason ahead.

Tanner Lee/Patrick O'Brien: It's just bowl practice talk, but it's a good thing when both Mike Riley and Danny Langsdorf are pointing at the two QBs as standing out. Neither will run like Tommy Armstrong, but the goal has to be to make a drastic leap from NU's passing completion percentage of 51 percent this year. To that end, it's encouraging that Langsdorf specifically mentions their high rate of competing passes in recent practices.

Sure, those are just practices nine months from when it's real. The QBs are going to need help when it counts from a running game, and an O-line that can give them time to operate.

Perhaps the advantage is to Lee, who has the experience of playing at the collegiate level at Tulane. According to defensive coordinator Mark Banker, Lee has shown good leadership and worth ethic traits while working against his unit in practices.

But O'Brien will also get his reps to show his stuff, and it's also positive that he'll make it to 2017 with his redshirt still intact, having picked up knowledge away from the spotlight. Because that light is about to shine hot on both these quarterbacks.

John Raridon/Boe Wilson/Matt Farniok: Don't just assume anyone from this trio breaks into a starting role, but don't be surprised if one or two do either. Raridon, in particular, seems to have a real shot at that center job according to comments from coaches and players. And Wilson almost had his redshirt burned this year. So clearly coaches think he's ahead of schedule compared to most.

Farniok could make a push at right tackle, though the likes of Cole Conrad, David Knevel and Christian Gaylord are also candidates in that fight. It's not easy to break into a Big Ten O-line even in your second year, so if any of these guys do, it shouldn't be undersold how impressive that is on their part.

David Engelhaupt/Matt Snyder/Jack Stoll: Perhaps you've taken stock that NU is about to lose three senior tight ends, including Cethan Carter. Tough to replace. Senior-to-be Tyler Hoppes might be the first answer at that spot next year. He's a good receiver and is working hard on his blocking.

But NU probably needs one or two or all of the three youngsters mentioned above to start working their way into key responsibilities. Snyder was a 2015 signee who the Huskers got over Michigan. Stoll is coming off an injury, but a guy NU topped Texas for in recruiting.

And Engelhaupt, from Norfolk Catholic, now looks like a really smart addition to the NU class late in the last recruiting cycle. He sure looks the part. Spring ball will be large for all these guys. There is playing time out there to be grabbed.

Keyan Williams/JD Spielman: As Nebraska looks to fill in for some key departing seniors at receiver, the transfer Williams could be important. Stanley Morgan says the son of wide receivers coach Keith Williams has the game to help net year. The same could apparently be said for Spielman. He probably could have played him this year, but coaches would have had to work out how to differentiate his role from that of De'Mornay Pierson-El.

They'll still have to do that, but Spielman has the versatility to help this offense with the fly sweep, as a receiver and a return man. Cornerback Chris Jones said of the freshman, "He might not be that big, but he plays big."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7439 or bchristopherson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.


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