Football Magazine

NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Top Five Surprising Huskers of 2011

By Huskerlocker @huskerlocker

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By Brandon Cavanaugh
Following the end of a tumultuous 2010 season that saw Nebraska drop three of their last four games including an embarrassing performance against Washington, what 2011 held was a mystery.
As spring turned to fall and this Cornhusker squad stubbed their toes, learned from their mistakes and grew, some unexpected developments took place amongst the roster. Five stand out in particular:
- Seung Hoon Choi
The Seoul, South Korea native made waves in fall camp and was expected to be put in rotation by many who follow the program closely. It’s hard to believe that anyone aside from coaches and players saw Choi's exceptional performances coming. The junior offensive guard has proven his mettle, especially when it comes to steamrolling defensive linemen to make way for his running backs.
Choi’s development is a testament to the assistance that John Garrison and Brendan Stai have been giving Barney Cotton this season. It appears that with Cotton relaying what he’s seeing from the big uglies up front, the Garrison/Stai combination has been able to install strategic training allowing all linemen to excel, but Choi’s improvement stands above the rest.
- Kenny Bell
"If you don’t know, throw to the ‘fro!"
While Bell's had a case of the dropsies lately, that doesn’t change the fact that the redshirt freshman has proven game-changing ability. He currently leads the team in receiving yards with 307 and is tied with three others for the most touchdown catches with two. Bell’s signature hairdo isn’t the only thing that has endeared him to Husker fans.
His measurables (6’1” 180 pounds according to make for a daunting deep threat against any secondary. Many times, Bell has found himself ready to haul in massive chunks of yardage via passes from quarterback Taylor Martinez. Unfortunately, far too many of those tosses have bounced off of his hands. The good news is that while young, Bell has a tremendous upside and the potential to become an extremely dangerous weapon in Tim Beck’s offense.
- Ameer Abdullah
As the 2011 season has developed, it seems like we’ve seen less and less of Abdullah who thrilled Nebraska fans thanks to his kick returns earlier in the year. With a reliance on the unwavering Rex Burkhead to help guide Nebraska to victory from the I-Back spot, Abdullah is now been primarily used to get Superman what little rest he's afforded.
Despite having some issues securing the football, many Husker fans remember back to Abdullah's electrifying 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Fresno State. Thanks to that one remarkable play, the Big Red masses are waiting for him to thrill them over and over. One has to think it’s only a matter of time.
- Brett Maher
Let’s face it, folks. Nebraska’s spoiled. No, not by conference titles or national championships, but by the seeming assembly line of efficient, if not great, kickers and punters to come through the football program. Severe uncertainty ran rampant following the departure of arguably the best kicker in Cornhusker history, current Philadelphia Eagle Alex Henery.
How do you replace the NCAA’s all-time most accurate kicker? Enter Brett Maher. He watched silently as Nebraska signed Boca Raton, Florida native Mauro Bondi to a scholarship. Surely the guy with a free ride had the starting spot on lock down, right? Maher never had to say a word.
His cleats briefly flatten the Memorial Stadium FieldTurf before he nails field goals with accuracy coveted by the SEC. He booms punts, often downing them inside the 20-yard line and trots back to the sidelines. Sorry, Mr. Bondi. Brett Maher's the new sheriff in town.
- Taylor Martinez
How can Nebraska’s returning starter at quarterback be a surprise? The consensus last April/May was to get Brion Carnes on the field immediately following an absolutely putrid performance by Martinez in Nebraska’s Red-White Spring Game. Then came the summer and he grew. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck worked with him and organized an offense that afforded Martinez the opportunity to think less and react more.
Beck Ball has been rough to watch at times as the sophomore signal-caller has looked uncomfortable at times on option runs. There’s no argument that he’s improved, however. Using short to intermediate strikes, Martinez’s passing won’t make many highlight reels. His throwing motion has even been ridiculed on national television.
Regardless, he’s effective and those small to medium chunks of yardage build up. Less zone read and reliance on those around him appear to have injected new confidence in Martinez. He’s not the only one who believes a play can be successful with the ball in his hands. The 10 others on the field wearing the same colors do, too.
Martinez’s trust in himself and those around him has helped him flourish. If he continues to grow at this rate, Nebraska will be afforded the opportunity to begin developing those behind him in the same fashion. If Brion Carnes, Ron Kellogg and the incoming Tommy Armstrong can benefit from the same tutoring, the quality of the Cornhusker quarterback depth chart will skyrocket.
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By Nicole Hammons
posted on 31 January at 18:12
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