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Every spring in Nebraska, flowers start to bloom, the weather changes by the hour, students long for a break, and a few previously unheralded Husker football players make headlines, only to disappear when fall begins.
Let’s take a look at five such players, who will spark interest and draw outlandish predictions due to their dazzling ability, only to find themselves buried on the depth chart come August.
Wide receiver Taariq Allen – Allen was a surprise addition to the 2010 Nebraska recruiting class, deciding to head west despite residing from Weston, Massachusetts, a state the Huskers rarely looks at for future talent.
Allen showcased an impressive skillset during his days at Rivers School, running precise routes, exhibiting solid speed, and attacking passes with strong hands for a high school receiver.
While his competition was average at best, the future Husker was still able to garner offers from Boston College and Wisconsin. Last year, No. 7 spent time studying the intricacies of Tim Beck’s offense, adding muscle, and learning the tricks of the trade from veterans like Brandon Kinnie.
Now that Kinnie is gone and Allen has another offseason under his belt, the rangy redshirt freshman will have a chance to push for playing time this spring.
Wide receiver is a position for which practices usually include heavy rotation, even more so in Spring drills. Allen will get plenty of opportunities to show off his good hands and skillful route running, but will likely end up third on the depth chart come fall with Kenny Bell, Jamal Turner, Quincy Enunwa, and Tim Marlowe all returning.
All this before considering the arrival of incoming freshman Jordan Westerkamp, one of last cycle’s most highly-coveted receivers.
Quarterback Tyson Broekemeier – As a recruit, Broekemeier turned down lower level offers to follow his brother to Nebraska with the dream of one day shining in front of 85,000 red-clan fans.
Now that he’s recovered from a knee injury, the Aurora native will make headlines over the next month by showing off his ability to do what Taylor Martinez has been unable to – consistently and accurately find receivers downfield.
He completed over 71 percent of his passes as a senior at Aurora High School, and impressively threw 31 touchdowns to only three interceptions. He was able to put up over 600 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground, as well.
While he does not possess the speed of Martinez, or the quickness and elusiveness of Brion Carnes, Broekemeier has more than enough mobility to make a few defenders miss in and out of the pocket.
However, no matter how well he plays, it won’t make one lick difference unless Pelini and Beck are willing to swallow the tough pill of benching a two-year starter and injuries pile up. Even then, he'd have to beat out Rex Burkhead.
Defensive Tackle Jay Guy – The robust Texan was a defining piece of Nebraska’s 2010 recruiting class, providing key depth and ability to the defensive tackle position after the Huskers were able to sway Guy away from over 30 other big-time BCS suitors.
Coming into his freshman season, the All-Texas tackle carried a good deal of unnecessary weight, and like most freshmen linemen, he needed to add solid muscle mass.
Despite his status as an unfinished product, Guy ended up taking snaps last year due to the abundance of injuries Nebraska experienced at defensive tackle. With Chase Rome and Todd Peat out this spring, the sophomore wrecking ball will get his shot to line up next to Baker Steinkuhler and take on the first team offense.
However, Rome will almost certainly knock him back on the depth chart in the fall with Kevin Williams pushing him for backup minutes as well. Expect Guy to be a key contributor for the Huskers, but not in 2012.
Cornerback Braylon Heard – Heard made plays from the running back position last year that made fans realize why he was so highly sought after upon graduating from Cardinal Mooney High School.
What is forgotten is that Heard was perhaps even more distinguished as a high school cornerback. He even drew serious interest from the in-state Buckeyes to play on the scarlet and gray's defense.
While Heard likely would’ve ended up being a reliable ball-carrier for Nebraska, Pelini correctly recognized that No. 5’s talents can best be used at cornerback, as Heard possessing more raw natural ability than any other returning player.
The Ohio prep star will make waves this Spring, but it’ll take at least a redshirt year for him to fully understand the defense, let alone gain the trust of both Bo and new secondary coach Terry Joseph.
Fullback Mike Marrow – Marrow, a transfer from Eastern Michigan (and Alabama prior), comes into this spring carrying high hopes from the Husker faithful, fans who have always loved a stout fullback to shred winded defenses in the fourth quarter.
Nebraska graduate assistant Vince Marrow’s son has the size to be the ‘big-back’ Pelini and Beck have expressed interest in finding, it’ll be tough for him to see serious minutes this fall with so many returning playmakers.
Marrow will get looks at both third and short and goal line situations, but as we’ve seen, when the moment of truth arrives, Bo turns to Rex Burkhead.
Additionally, Aaron Green and Ameer Abdullah will be tough competition for the bruising runner, especially in Beck’s spread-based system where the ability to make people miss in open space is mandatory.
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