There aren’t any shockers on Nebraska’s opening-week depth chart — rest assured, Adrian Martinez is starting at quarterback — but it still features plenty of interesting results.
Head coach Scott Frost warned against putting too much stock in the chart at the end of last week, mostly because injuries can keep a player on or off depending on severity.
So, like everything this time of year, a grain of salt is required, but let’s take a spin around the depth chart with Frost as our guide and see what sticks out.
Caleb Tannor is a co-starter: Of all the positions listed, outside linebacker was perhaps the most interesting. In the spirit of Frost’s Friday comments, it’s certainly possible health — and JoJo Domann’s absence early in camp — played a role in how this shook out, but Tannor and Domann are listed as co-starters on one side and Alex Davis is on the other. Davis' backups: Senior Tyrin Ferguson and freshman Garrett Nelson.
For Tannor, a big summer and solid camp helped put the sophomore in position to play extensively.
“I think he knows what he’s doing better,” Frost said. “He’s shown up more. He’s handled things off the field better that probably prevented him from having a better year last year, and in some ways I think he was given an opportunity with a couple of other guys being out. JoJo missing some time early (in camp) gave him more reps. Other guys getting nicked up gave him some more reps, and he took advantage of it.”
Said senior linebacker Mohamed Barry, “Physically, he’s put on some weight. He’s really ripped. This guy is really fast. Like, extremely fast. … He doesn’t get tired of running fast. He can hawk people from the other side of the field. It’s easy for him to come back to the line and do that over and over again.”
Domann and Ferguson have each made plays when healthy, but have both missed lots of time in their careers. Nelson, according to outside linebackers coach Jovan Dewitt, is going to play both on defense and special teams.
Allen a co-starter at TE: Sophomore Austin Allen is listed as a co-starter at tight end with junior Jack Stoll. Allen, the Aurora native "closed the gap" that existed last year, assistant coach Sean Beckton said last week. NU feels good about its depth overall, as Beckton said sophomore Kurt Rafdal was just a shade behind Allen.
DL depth apparent: NU listed six up front on the defensive line — Darrion Daniels backed by younger brother Damion in the middle, Carlos Davis backed by Deontre Thomas on one side and Khalil Davis backed by Ben Stille on the other — but Frost said Monday the Huskers are comfortable playing more than that.
Candidates beyond the top six include new juco transfer Jahkeem Green, redshirt freshman Casey Rogers and freshman Ty Robinson.
“We didn’t go too deep on the depth chart (at DL) because we didn’t want to leave anyone out toward the bottom,” Frost said. “But there’s a lot of guys that we feel great about that are ready to play now. We feel like there’s going to be a lot of great players around here in the future. There’s a lot of names, but that’s one of our deepest and most veteran units.
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“There are some guys that aren’t on this list that are talented enough to be great players this year and beyond."
QB pecking order: Noah Vedral is listed as the No. 2 quarterback behind Martinez, with freshman Luke McCaffrey at No. 3. There is likely a role for both depending on game situation, given that McCaffrey can play in up to four games and retain his redshirt and Frost has said he'd be comfortable putting either Vedral or McCaffrey on the field.
Decisions to be made: Frost said while some freshmen will certainly play more than four games and some are clear redshirt candidates, there’s a sizable group in the middle.
The head coach didn’t go too far down the list, but said Norfolk Catholic offensive lineman Ethan Piper is part of that conversation.
A full list of the freshmen on the two-deep: Wan’Dale Robinson (starting receiver and co-No. 1 kick returner), Darien Chase (co-No. 2 receiver), Bryce Benhart (No. 2 right tackle), McCaffrey (No. 3 quarterback), Rahmir Johnson (co-No. 3 running back), Nelson (co-No. 2 outside linebacker), Quinton Newsome (co-No. 2 cornerback) and Dylan Jorgensen (No. 2 placekicker).
Some, like the offensive linemen besides Benhart and Piper, will clearly redshirt. NU will almost certainly keep McCaffrey to four games or fewer.
Some of the most interesting to track will be the heralded groups of defensive backs — Newsome was the only freshman on the initial two-deep, though Myles Farmer missed camp time with an injury — and wide receivers besides Robinson.
A couple of impressive young walk-ons: Kearney redshirt freshman walk-on Isaiah Stalbird, who drew praise from Travis Fisher earlier this month, is listed as the No. 2 behind Marquel Dismuke, putting him at this point ahead of some heralded young players.
At inside linebacker, Joey Johnson overcame a camp injury to be listed on the two-deep behind the veteran trio of Barry, Collin Miller and Will Honas. Inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud has talked about freshmen Garrett Snodgrass and Jackson Hannah needing more repetitions and fellow freshman Nick Henrich is still recovering from spring shoulder surgery.
Armstrong the punter: Isaac Armstrong is listed as the No. 1 punter over Michigan State transfer William Przystup. Frost didn’t exactly say Armstrong has a short leash but did express confidence in both.