July 16, 2014

HuskerOnline.com's 2014 Top 40 players: 11-15

Voting Criteria: Player's importance to the team in 2014, talent and potential for the upcoming season. A player's long term/NFL potential was not taken into consideration.

Voting Panel: HuskerOnline.com publisher Sean Callahan, HuskerOnline.com senior writer Robin Washut, HuskerOnline.com staff writer Dan Hoppen, HuskerOnline.com recruiting expert Nate Clouse and HuskerOnline.com video producer Gregg Peterson.

No. 15 RB Imani Cross Analysis
North Hall HS
Gainesville, Ga.

Height: 6-1
Weight: 230
Year: Junior

Depth Chart Projection: Backup running back

2013 Stats: Played in all 13 games, ranked second on team with 447 rushing yards on 85 carries and 10 rushing touchdowns

Recent Update:
Spring grade out: Running back

While Ameer Abdullah is obviously the face of Nebraska's backfield, he's got plenty of talent behind him at the running back position, and it starts with Cross. The bruising junior has continued to develop his game and show he's more than just a short-yardage power back, and his MVP performance in the spring game was just the latest example of what all Cross can bring to the table. He'll need to continue to progress to hold off some of the young backs pushing for time behind him, but so far Cross has done everything necessary to remain the top No. 2 option behind Abdullah.
Voting Rundown: Sean Callahan: 16 / Dan Hoppen: 20 / Robin Washut: 21 / Nate Clouse: 15 / Gregg Peterson: 14

No. 14 LB Michael Rose Analysis
Rockhurst HS
Kansas City, Mo.

Height: 5-11
Weight: 240
Year: Sophomore

Depth Chart Projection: Starting MIKE linebacker

2013 Stats: Played in 12 games and started seven, ranked third on team with 66 tackles

Recent Update:
Spring grade out: Linebacker

Rose and Josh Banderas had one of the most competitive position battles of the spring, as the two essentially traded reps with the first-team defense as the top MIKE linebacker with neither able to clinch the starting job for good heading into the summer. Though he's only a sophomore, Rose has emerged as one of the vocal leaders of the defense, and while Banderas should continue to push him every day for the next couple of years, it looks as if Rose will be in position to establish himself as the starter come the season opener on Aug. 30.
Voting Rundown: Sean Callahan: 18 / Dan Hoppen: 9 / Robin Washut: 12 / Nate Clouse: 29 / Gregg Peterson: 18

No. 13 DE Greg McMullen Analysis
Hoban HS
Akron, Ohio

Height: 6-3
Weight: 280
Year: Sophomore

Depth Chart Projection: Starting defensive end

2013 Stats: Played in 11 games, had 16 tackles with four tackles for loss and a sack

Recent Update:
Spring grade out: Defensive end

When talking about indispensable players on Nebraska's roster going into the 2014 season, McMullen should rank right up towards the top given the Huskers' dearth of depth at the defensive position at the moment. He may not get the same acclaim as Randy Gregory, but McMullen will be counted on to be the anchor on the strong side of the defensive line while also playing more snaps than ever before in his college career. By all accounts the sophomore had a great spring, and NU is hoping that springboards him into a breakout season come the fall.
Voting Rundown: Sean Callahan: 14 / Dan Hoppen: 14 / Robin Washut: 23 / Nate Clouse: 17 / Gregg Peterson: 9

No. 12 OL Zach Sterup Analysis
Hastings St. Cecilia HS
Hastings, Neb.

Height: 6-8
Weight: 320
Year: Junior

Depth Chart Projection: Starting right tackle

2013 Stats: Played in 11 games, saw extensive action at right tackle in final five games due to injuries

Recent Update:
Spring grade out: Offensive line

Sterup was thrown into the fire last season when his first meaningful snaps of the season came on the road at Michigan with Nebraska's offense pinned at its own 1-yard line. It obviously wasn't an ideal setting for his audition at right tackle, but Sterup more than held his own and hasn't looked back since. Projected to take over as the starting right tackle this season, Sterup has steadily refined his skills to match his impressive size and should be a fixture on NU's offensive line for the next two years.
Voting Rundown: Sean Callahan: 12 / Dan Hoppen: 12 / Robin Washut: 14 / Nate Clouse: 18 / Gregg Peterson: 12

No. 11 DT Maliek Collins Analysis
Center HS
Kansas City, Mo.

Height: 6-2
Weight: 300
Year: Sophomore

Depth Chart Projection: Starting defensive tackle

2013 Stats: Played in 12 games, including starting in the Gator Bowl. Had 12 tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack

Recent Update:
Spring grade out: Defensive tackle

Few players on Nebraska's defense have generated the kind of buzz and excitement from the end of last season to now than Collins, who based on the praise from nearly all of his coaches and teammates has the makings to potentially be the Huskers' next great defensive tackle. Blessed with superior strength and always playing with excellent leverage, Collins is quickly picking up on the same techniques that have produced a long line of successful d-tackles under head coach Bo Pelini. Seeing how he's only going to be a true sophomore, there's no telling just how good Collins could be when all is said and done.
Voting Rundown: Sean Callahan: 10 / Dan Hoppen: 10 / Robin Washut: 11 / Nate Clouse: 9 / Gregg Peterson: 11

If you missed:

No. 16-20

No. 21-25

No. 26-30

No. 31-35

No. 36-40

NEXT UP: Ranking No. 6-10

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