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July 11, 2013

Top Husker players for 2013: No. 1-5

Voting Criteria: Player's importance to the team in 2013, 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 and HuskerOnline.com staff writer Dan Hoppen.

No. 5 CB Ciante Evans Analysis
Juan Seguin HS
Arlington, Texas

Weight: 190
Year: Senior

Depth Chart Projection: starting nickelback

2012 Stats: Registered 56 tackles, including a pair of sacks. Broke up eight passes and added an interception which he returned for a touchdown.

Recent Update:
Spring grade out: Cornerback

Evans was not only the secondary's best weapon in 2012, but he was also its most versatile one. Evans excelled at locking down the opposition's slot receiver, but had the ability to play on the outside if NU used three linebackers or a particular receiver was giving the Huskers problems (see Wisconsin's Jared Abbrederis). Though cornerback figures to be one of NU's deepest positions, Evans will always have a spot on the field. He's a sticky defender in coverage and is a good tackler despite his small stature. Given the defense's overall inexperience, Evans will also be counted on as a leader in 2013. A solid senior campaign could vault him into mid-round discussion for the NFL Draft.
Voting Rundown: Sean Callahan - No. 4 / Dan Hoppen - No. 5 / Robin Washut- No. 5

No. 4 G Spencer Long Analysis
Elkhorn HS
Elkhorn, NE

Height: 6-4
Weight: 315
Year: Senior

Depth Chart Projection: Starting right guard

2012 Stats: Started all 14 games.

Recent Update:
Spring grade out: Offensive line

A second-team All-American selection by the Associated Press in 2012, Long figures to only improve in 2013. The former walk-on has shown the strength to push back defenders and the athleticism to excel on plays where he is required to pull. A starter in every game the last two seasons, Long isn't much of a vocal type in the locker room. But he leads by example and the rest of this veteran offensive line would be wise to follow him. Barring injury, Long is almost assured to make the All-Big Ten squad (which he accomplished last year) and could seriously threaten to be an All-American.
Voting Rundown: Sean Callahan - No. 5 / Dan Hoppen - 3 / Robin Washut - No. 4

No. 3 WR Kenny Bell Analysis
Fairview HS
Boulder, Colorado

Height: 6-1
Weight: 185
Year: Junior

Depth Chart Projection: Starting X receiver

2012 Stats: Hauled in 50 receptions for 863 yards and eight touchdowns. Returned 14 kickoffs for 325 yards (23.2 average).

Recent Update:
Spring grade out: Wide receiver

Few receivers at Nebraska in recent memory have gotten off to as hot of a start as Bell did last year. He had 44 receptions for 784 yards through 11 games, giving him a legit shot at becoming NU's first 1,000-yard receiver in school history. He had just six catches for 74 yards in the Huskers' final three games, but that shouldn't dampen expectations for his junior year. Bell has tremendous straight-line speed and dropped just three passes on 78 targets last year. The charismatic receiver will have to fight for targets against reliable Quincy Enunwa, emerging slot man Jamal Turner and intriguing redshirt freshmen Alonzo Moore and Jordan Westerkamp. But Bell is definitively NU's No. 1 receiver heading into 2013 and should challenge the 1,000-yard barrier once again.
Voting Rundown: Sean Callahan - 3 / Dan Hoppen - No. 4 / Robin Washut - No. 3

No. 2 RB Ameer Abdullah Analysis
Homewood HS
Homewood, Alabama

Weight: 190
Year: Junior

Depth Chart Projection: Starting running back

2012 Stats: Started seven games, rushing 226 times for 1,137 yards (5.0 average) and eight touchdowns. Had 24 receptions for 178 yards and two scores. Returned 16 punts for 209 (13.1 average), including one touchdown, and 17 kickoffs for 360 yards (21.2 average).

Recent Update:
Spring grade out: Running back

When Rex Burkhead injured his knee in the season opener against Southern Miss, it appeared to spell major trouble for Nebraska. Burkhead ended up missing six games and parts of several others, but Abdullah's emergence minimized the damage. With such a slight build, there were questions about whether Abdullah could carry the load full time. But the sophomore had four games with 22 or more carries, averaging 123.5 yards (4.6 yards per carry) in those contests. With Burkhead graduated, Abdullah is clearly the go-to running back in 2013. He will face challenges from the ever-improving Imani Cross and freshmen Terrell Newby and Adam Taylor. But Abdullah, who rushed for more than 100 yards six times last season, figures to get the main share of the carries and will be an enormous part of the 2013 offense.
Voting Rundown: Sean Callahan - No. 2 / Dan Hoppen - No. 2 / Robin Washut - No. 2

No. 1 QB Taylor Martinez Analysis
Centennial HS
Corona, California

Height: 6-1
Weight: 210
Year: Senior

Depth Chart Projection: Starting quarterback

2012 Stats: Completed 228 of 368 passes (62 percent) for 2,871 yards, 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Totaled 195 rushes for 1,019 yards (5.2 average) and 10 touchdowns.

Recent Update:
Spring grade out: Quarterback

Not much suspense here, is there? Martinez is a fourth-year starter who already owns the school record in many quarterback categories - how could he not be the choice for No. 1? Martinez displayed a clutch gene in fourth-quarter comebacks over Northwestern and Michigan State last year, but can he avoid the turnovers that have plagued his career? Martinez has led or tied for the national lead in fumbles in each of his three active seasons and tossed 12 picks last year. His year-to-year improvement suggests he can cut that number substantially, and if he does, he will be a dark horse Heisman candidate. If he can't solve his turnover woes, they threaten to spoil a promising NU season. No player is as close to as important as Martinez is in 2013.
Voting Rundown: Sean Callahan - No. 1 / Dan Hoppen - No. 1 / Robin Washut - No. 1

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