March 20, 2012

Five Huskers with something to prove this spring

While Nebraska took a break from spring practice this week, there are a few players who have too much on the line this spring to just relax in the sun.

Today we take a look at five Huskers who need to make a statement the most over the course of the remaining three weeks of spring ball.

Brion Carnes, QB, 6-1, 200, So.

For the second spring in a row, Brion Carnes will be top contender to unseat Taylor Martinez for Nebraska's starting quarterback job this season. While Carnes made a nice case for himself with his breakout performance in last year's spring game, he eventually fell clearly behind Martinez on the depth chart and saw only minimal snaps as a redshirt freshman. The deck will be stacked against the sophomore again this season, as word is Martinez has made major improvements to his passing and poise in the pocket. For Carnes to have any chance of earning a starting spot or even seeing significant playing time before Martinez graduates, he's going to have to continue to make a lot of noise in practice. This spring is as good as any time to do just that.
Alonzo Whaley, LB, 6-1, 235, Sr.

Less than a year ago, Alonzo Whaley was left off Nebraska's 10-5-man roster going into fall camp and had to start the year from the bottom of the depth chart for disciplinary reasons as a result of poor academics. Instead of letting frustration get the best of him, Whaley used his situation as motivation and eventually earned his first Blackshirt by season's end. Now, he's one of the favorites to win the Will linebacker job this season. While he may be the frontrunner, there's no guarantee the spot will be Whaley's when the season opener rolls around. The competition should increase in a big way when junior college transfer Zaire Anderson, rated as the No. 1 juco linebacker in the country last year, joins the mix at the Will spot. Whaley needs a strong spring to give himself any advantage he can going into fall camp.

Cole Pensick, C, 6-2, 275, Jr.

There may not be a bigger question mark on Nebraska's offense than who will replace Mike Caputo as the Huskers' next starting center. The No. 2 behind Caputo last season, Cole Pensick looks to be the leading candidate to win the job after the first week of spring practice. However, it's not as if he doesn't have serious competition behind him. With senior Justin Jackson, who just moved over from defensive tackle, and redshirt freshman Ryne Reeves settling in at the position, the spring is a huge opportunity for Pensick to separate himself as much as possible from the rest of the pack going into fall camp.

Courtney Osborne, S, 6-3, 200, Sr.

There was a point two seasons ago when Courtney Osborne had solidified himself as fixture on Nebraska's starting defense. Then, after some issues with concussions and Corey Raymond replacing Marvin Sanders as NU's defensive backs coach, Osborne essentially fell into obscurity on the Huskers' depth chart. The good news for Osborne this spring is that he's finally healthy and, with Terry Joseph taking over for Raymond, he has a clean slate to show what he can do this spring. If Osborne can play like the hard-hitting safety that beat out Rickey Thenarse mid-season two years ago, look for him to be right back in the mix for a starting spot.
C.J. Zimmerer, FB, 6-0, 235, Jr.

Maybe one of the more unheralded position battles for this offseason is at fullback, as Nebraska must replace team leader Tyler Legate. While C.J. Zimmerer is entering his fourth year as a Husker, he's in a neck-and-neck battle with junior Mike Marrow for the starting job. Marrow has made a lot of noise this offseason with his combination of size and athleticism, and there's been a lot of talk about what he could bring to NU's backfield as both a fullback and running back. For Zimmerer to avoid getting left behind and having his best window to earn a starting spot slam shut, he's going to need to have a big spring and even better fall camp.

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