The World-Herald is counting down the top 50 Nebraska players you need to know heading into the 2018 season.
6-2, 220 • Freshman • Quarterback
The Countdown has never before picked a freshman in the top spot ... and may never again. But Martinez, new coach Scott Frost’s first quarterback recruit, has a considerable aura around him that’s overshadowed only by Frost himself.
Assured, comfortable with the press and an ultra-talented runner, Martinez has a real shot to win the starting job. If he does, he’d be the first true freshman Husker to start a season opener. If he doesn’t — if Tristan Gebbia wins the job — he could still play a lot in Year One.
There’s a reason Frost and his quarterbacks coach, Mario Verduzco, made Martinez a priority right after they took the Nebraska job. Martinez looks the part. He’s now getting a chance to be the man.
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No. 1 Adrian Martinez: Assured, comfortable with the press and an ultra-talented runner, Adrian Martinez has a real shot to win the starting job. If he does, he’d be the first true freshman Husker to start a season opener. Click here to read more.
No. 2 Stanley Morgan: The New Orleans product has a good chance to leave Nebraska as the most accomplished receiver in Husker history. Click here to read more.
No. 3 Aaron Williams: He is a playmaker when healthy, a good tackler and a good communicator on defense. Click here to read more.
No. 4 Tristan Gebbia: It’s a testament to Tristan Gebbia’s leadership and intellect that, in an entirely different offense, he may still be a multiyear starter for the Huskers. Click here to read more.
No. 5 Mick Stoltenberg: He’s been a Blackshirt for years and could be a captain if NU coach Scott Frost decides to name those before or during the season. Click here to read more.
No. 6 Greg Bell: Lean, light and slithery, Bell comes to Nebraska after back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons at Arizona Western. He was the nation’s No. 1 junior college back, and he does indeed run pretty. Click here to read more.
No. 7 Lamar Jackson: The junior seems to have turned a corner under new defensive backs coach Travis Fisher — a former NFL player less focused on his next recruit and more focused on development. Click here to read more.
No. 8 JD Spielman: He makes plays. That’s the best way to describe Spielman, a smart, crafty player who’s rawhide tough and clutch on third down. He just makes plays out of the slot. Click here to read more.
No. 9 Dedrick Young: He was consistently singled out as the inside linebacker who picked up the defense and mentality the fastest, and he looks set for a starting job again. Click here to read more.
10. Carlos Davis, DL: Fresh off a strong outdoor track and field season in which he qualified for the NCAA championships in the discus, Davis is arguably Nebraska’s most talented defensive tackle. Click here to read more.
No. 11 Dicaprio Bootle: He was thrust into extensive duty in the wake of Chris Jones’ injury and played in all 12 games, registering 15 tackles. Click here to read more.
No. 12, Tanner Farmer, OL: The only thing certain about Farmer’s role on the offensive line this season is that he will have a prominent one. Click here to read more.
No. 13 Jerald Foster, OL: Foster was Mr. Reliable last year, whether it was catching a punt on the run to end a fall camp practice early or starting all 12 games at left guard. Click here to read more.
No. 14 Antonio Reed, S: He was already one of Nebraska’s most versatile defensive backs before the new coaching staff began cross-training safeties and corners in the spring. Now Reed — who made 42 tackles across 10 games at safety last season — is primed to assume a larger role wherever the Huskers need him. Click here to read more.
No. 15 Breon Dixon, LB: The Georgia native took reps at outside linebacker in the spring but also has the ability to play safety or even corner in a nickel or dime package. Click here to read more.
No. 16 Mohamed Barry, LB: With an offense that plans to push the pace, Nebraska needs plenty of reliable inside linebackers to soak up extra snaps. Barry fits the bill, having played all 25 games during the past two seasons. Click here to read more.
No. 17 Will Honas, LB: After logging 97 tackles in 11 games for Butler Community College in Kansas last year and turning down offers from Wisconsin and Iowa, Will Honas, the hand-picked prospect of linebackers coach Barrett Ruud, physically appears ready to make an immediate impact. Click here to read more.
No. 18 Brenden Jaimes, OL: He moved to left tackle in the spring and looks to lock down the spot vacated when Nick Gates declared early for the NFL draft. Click here to read more.
No. 19 Jack Stoll,TE: Tight end is among Nebraska’s deeper positions, but Jack Stoll is the only one with a college catch after making eight for 89 yards and two touchdowns as a redshirt freshman. Click here to read more.
No. 20 Luke Gifford, LB: In his fifth season as a Husker — he made 39 tackles in seven games last year — Gifford is a leader. If he can grasp defensive coordinator Erik Chinander’s aggressive scheme, he’ll be a reliable asset. Click here to read more.
No. 21 Tyjon Lindsey, WR: The sophomore had 12 catches for 76 yards a year ago, but the new scheme should free up the 5-foot-9 speedster. Click here to read more.
No. 22 Ben Stille, DL: Nebraska’s sack leader from 2017 is headed back to the defensive line. Stille racked up 24 tackles and 3.5 sacks as an outside linebacker. Now, The BTN all-freshman player is back to where he says he’s more comfortable. Click here to read more.
No. 23, Marquel Dismuke, DB: Dismuke has impressed coaches since his arrival in December. The Calabasas (Calif.) High product had 34 total tackles in 2017 and one fumble recovery. Click here to read the story.
No. 24, Alex Davis, LB: Three sacks and an interception in the spring game will make a name rise on preseason charts. With the outside linebacker position opposite Breon Dixon wide open, Davis could sneak in and find some serious playing time. Click here to read the story.
No. 25, Freedom Akinmoladun, DE: With an aggressive front under Chinander, Akinmoladun’s Husker career should end like it started: with plays in the backfield. Click here to read more.
No. 26, Mike Williams, WR: At East Mississippi Community College, Williams had seven touchdowns and averaged 23.2 yards per catch. Click here to read more.
No. 27, Mikale Wilbon, RB: Of Nebraska’s running backs already on the roster, Wilbon fits best into what coach Scott Frost and assistant Ryan Held want. Click here to read more.
No. 28, Devine Ozigbo, RB: Ozigbo hasn’t shown he can go off for an 80-yard run, which hurts his chances to start. If he can show that in the next few months, he may have a chance. If not, he’ll likely be a red-zone back and a back Nebraska uses to keep defenses off balance. Click here to read more.
No. 29, Khalil Davis,DL: As part of a defense that needs to put pressure on opposing offenses, Khalil Davis will be pivotal in 2018. Davis had four tackles for loss, two sacks and one forced fumble in 2017. Click here to read more.
30. Matt Farniok, OL: Two starts at right tackle and two starts at right guard put Matt Farniok in a similar position to Cole Conrad and Tanner Farmer: Where does he fit best in this offense? Click here to read the story.
31. Cole Conrad, OL: On an offensive line still looking for an identity, Cole Conrad could be the finger to plug whatever hole is letting water through the dam. Conrad can play center, guard or tackle. Click here to read the story.
32. Will Jackson, DB: Nebraska is Jackson’s fourth school since 2015. Jackson is a bigger corner who can disrupt big Big Ten receivers. With questions around the defensive backs, Jackson will have plenty of chances to prove himself. Click here to read the story.
33. Eric Lee, DB: In Erik Chinander’s defense, Eric Lee may benefit with a new set of aggressive schemes but will have to win time at a position becoming more infused with talent. Click here to read more.
34. Jaylin Bradley, RB: As a true freshman, Bradley showed flashes of productivity, recording four receptions for 38 yards and 24 carries for 93 yards. Click here to read more.
35. Andrew Bunch, QB: Do not mention to quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco that Andrew Bunch is “just a walk-on.” Don’t mention that to Bunch, either. He’s here to play. Click here to read the story.
36. Austin Allen, TE: In Scott Frost’s offense, the tight end is a chameleon. At times he has to be an offensive tackle, a fullback, a slot receiver, a wideout. Austin Allen seems to be able to fit into all those roles. Click here to read the story.
37. Cam'Ron Jones, DB: When Cam Jones walks onto the field, he says, he turns into “the baddest thing walking.” And Nebraska may need some of that attitude on the defensive side of the ball. Click here to read the story.
38. Jaron Woodyard, WR: Nebraska infused some junior college flavor into its wide receiver corps for 2018. Woodyard comes to Lincoln from Arizona Western College. In his second year at Arizona Western, Woodyard caught 36 passes for 522 yards and six touchdowns. Click here to read the story.
39. Caleb Lightbourn, P: Lightbourn’s sophomore season was significantly better than his first. He averaged 42.1 yards per punt in 2017 and finished the season ranked sixth in the Big Ten in punts. Click here to read more.
40. Miles Jones, WR: Miles Jones should fit in perfectly at Nebraska’s “duck” position as a slot receiver who can also take handoffs in the backfield. Click here to read more.
41. Tyrin Ferguson, OLB: NU outside linebackers coach Jovan Dewitt has said Tyrin Ferguson has strong coverage skills but could truly elevate his game — and stay ahead of some hungry younger players — if his pass-rush abilities progress. Click here to read more.
42. Jaevon McQuitty, WR: He may have lost his under-the-radar status in the spring game, when the consensus four-star prospect with seven Big Ten offers reeled in three catches for 33 yards — including a 25-yard touchdown. Click here to read more.
43. Cam Taylor, CB: The book is far from written on Taylor, who will begin at cornerback but could move to a variety of positions. His quickness and Nebraska’s lack of depth at corner means he’s a candidate for early playing time. Click here to read more.
44. Deontre Thomas, DL: Thomas has as much to gain as anyone from Nebraska’s coaching transition. One of two true freshmen to play on defense last year, Thomas played well behind Mick Stoltenberg at nose tackle while notching 14 tackles. Click here to read more.
45 DaiShon Neal, DL: The former Omaha Central standout came to Nebraska with high hopes but said this spring he often doubted his abilities as a Division I player. Recruited to compete on a four-man front, Neal has navigated the learning curve and is back to the confident playmaker. Click here to read more.
46. Boe Wilson, OL: A consensus three-star recruit from the 2016 class, Wilson rarely saw playing time on the line last year even as injuries and fan outcry mounted. The Lee’s Summit, Missouri, product pushed right guard starter Tanner Farmer and figures to be an option at either spot should the need arise. Click here to read more.
47. Barret Pickering, K: Can Pickering continue the decades-long run of consistency from Nebraska kickers? The Huskers certainly hope so, especially considering the gantlet they will face this fall. Click here to read more.
48. Matt Sichterman, OL: Sichterman could be a late-game reserve or crunch-time contributor depending on what happens ahead of him on the depth chart. If this fall plays out like 2017 — with injuries to multiple right tackles that tested the Huskers’ depth — the Cincinnati product could quickly become a familiar name. Click here to read more.
49. Peyton Newell, DL: The Hiawatha, Kansas, native changed his fortunes this spring while making big gains under strength coach Zach Duval — the lineman said he added 23 pounds of muscle — and taking practice snaps as the No. 1 nose tackle with Mick Stoltenberg out because of an injury. Click here to read more.
50. Damion Daniels, DL: Daniels gives the Huskers another viable option at the position after redshirting last year and — if his listed weight is accurate — dropping 20 pounds. There is still plenty of upside with Daniels, who should provide quality relief for starters and could push them for a prominent role. Click here to read more.
Honorable mention: RB Tre Bryant, OLB Collin Miller, OLB Caleb Tannor, TE Kurt Rafdal, ATH Justin McGriff, LS Jordan Ober, ILB Avery Roberts, G John Raridon, OLB Guy Thomas, DT Vaha Vainuku, C Hunter Miller. Click here for more on the Huskers that received honorable mention.