Walk-on U doesn’t shy away from giving non-scholarship players an opportunity.
So Nebraska will have plenty walk-ons vying for playing time in spring football. Here are seven top guys to watch:
Punter Isaac Armstrong Nebraska waited much too long to give Armstrong a real chance at being the starting punter. As in multiple years. The left-footer from Lincoln Southwest finally got his shot against Wisconsin, two-and-a-half years after he arrived, and immediately did well. His average for the season was 43.6 yards per punt. He also put nine punts inside the 20. He’ll compete for All-Big Ten honors so long as he stays healthy.
Guard Trent Hixson An athletic interior lineman who played at Omaha Skutt, Hixson fits the profile of what NU coaches want. He can pull well and climb to the next level on a run play. He was an adequate backup to Boe Wilson last season. Wilson is back, but he could potentially play either guard position, so there’s a spot for Hixson, who may also battle at center. There’s a strong presumption Hixson will be nudged out of playing time if Matt Farniok slides to right tackle, but Nebraska will play the best five guys.
Linebacker Joseph Johnson The Gretna graduate redshirted last season to put on weight. He’s now 6-foot-3, 235 pounds and could be a factor outside or inside. Johnson was a top-flight player in high school who has his best football ahead of him, not unlike another Gretna grad: Andy Janovich.
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Running back Wyatt Mazour A special teams stalwart who also had 11 carries for 76 yards last season, Mazour was on scholarship in 2018, but it’s a one-year deal, so he’ll have to re-earn it for 2019. Chances are he will, and depending on the status of Maurice Washington, he could be the most experienced running back in spring practices.
Center Hunter Miller The Stromsburg product has physically looked the part since he stepped on campus in 2017. He battled for the starting job at center in 2018 after recovering from an injury but ultimately finished third. The two guys ahead of him, Tanner Farmer and Cole Conrad, have graduated, though. That means the 6-foot-4, 325-pound Miller, who appeared in two games last season, has a decent chance to win the center job in 2019. He’ll have to beat out Cameron Jurgens and Will Farniok, among others, to do so.
Defensive back Jeramiah Stovall The Huskers’ 2018 special teams player of the year spent the first few games watching from the bleachers. But he got with the program and, as a result, returned to his role as a top special teams guy, finishing with eight tackles. The senior from Omaha Creighton Prep may not show up a ton in the spring game — NU didn’t show much special teams in the 2018 spring game — but Stovall is a key piece to that unit.
Receiver Kade Warne When many of NU’s scholarship receivers — like Jaron Woodyard, Jaevon McQuitty or Andre Hunt — couldn’t figure out the full playbook or block effectively, Warner got the nod from offensive coordinator Troy Walters halfway through the season. Warner started against Purdue and six more games, finishing with 17 catches for 95 yards. Not a big-play guy, but a steady, tough blocker who knows where to be from any wideout position. Right now, he’s one of NU’s top three receivers.