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July 10, 2014

HuskerOnline.com's 2014 Top 40 players: 26-30

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. 30 DT Aaron Curry Analysis
Fossil Ridge HS
Keller, Texas

Height: 6-1
Weight: 280
Year: Junior

Depth Chart Projection: backup defensive tackle

2013 Stats: Played in 13 games (8 starts), 26 tackles (3 for loss), 2.0 sacks

Recent Update:
Spring grade out: Defensive tackle

Curry's career to this point has been better defined by his potential than his production. His inconsistent playing time makes it difficult to determine his ceiling, and that may be the case again in 2014. Vincent Valentine and Maliek Collins figure to be the starters, and Kevin Williams and Kevin Maurice will be fighting for backup snaps too. Curry has the ability to be at least a solid rotation player off the bench, and he could be more. This is the year for him to show it.
Voting Rundown: Sean Callahan: 34 / Dan Hoppen: 35 / Robin Washut: 30 / Nate Clouse: 33 / Gregg Peterson: 17

No. 29 WR Sam Burtch Analysis
Elmwood-Murdock HS
Murdock, Neb.

Height: 6-3
Weight: 195
Year: Junior

Depth Chart Projection: Starting wide receiver

2013 Stats: Played in 13 games (2 starts), 12 receptions for 147 yards and 3 touchdowns

Recent Update:
Spring grade out: Wide receiver

When the coaching staff began first bringing up Burtch's name in fall practice last year, it seemed they were giving giving recognition to a hard-working walk-on, not a potential starter. Yet, with injuries to Kenny Bell and Alonzo Moore, Burtch became a very valuable member of the receiving corps and figures to start in 2014. His height makes him a strong red-zone threat, and he made several "wow" catches this spring. Burtch is also one of the best blockers among the receivers.
Voting Rundown: Sean Callahan: 29 / Dan Hoppen: 25 / Robin Washut: 28 / Nate Clouse: NR / Gregg Peterson: 20

No. 28 DB Byerson Cockrell Analysis
East Mississippi CC/Columbus HS
Columbus, Miss.

Height: 6-0
Weight: 185
Year: Junior

Depth Chart Projection: Backup cornerback

2013 Stats: 33 tackles, 3 interceptions, 4 pass breakups, 2.0 sacks at East Mississippi CC

Recent Update:
Spring grade out: Cornerback

Cockrell was one of the less-heralded members of the 2013 recruiting class, but his performance in the spring suggested he may have been underrated. Nebraska lost several cornerbacks to graduation, so the spot opposite Josh Mitchell is there for the taking. Right now, it appears to be a two-way battle between Cockrell and Jonathan Rose, who split first-team reps pretty evenly in the spring. Depending on how he recovers from his ACL injury, Daniel Davie could factor in as well, but if Cockrell performs as well in the fall as he did in the spring, he could put himself in position to start right away.
Voting Rundown: Sean Callahan: 27 / Dan Hoppen: 22 / Robin Washut: 25 / Nate Clouse: 27 / Gregg Peterson: 31

No. 27 S Nathan Gerry Analysis
Washington HS
Sioux Falls, S.D.

Height: 6-2
Weight: 210
Year: Sophomore

Depth Chart Projection: Backup safety

2013 Stats: Played in 13 games (3 starts), 32 tackles (2 for loss)

Recent Update:
Spring grade out: Safety

Gerry is back in his natural position after spending 2013 at linebacker, and that's a good thing for the Huskers. Gerry has tremendous speed and strength and is perfectly sized for the position. He's not going to unseat senior Corey Cooper, and LeRoy Alexander played very well at times last year, so there is some question to when and where he plays. But even if Gerry is limited to a dime back role or playing in certain formations, he's simply too strong a talent to keep off the field. Cooper sat out the spring with turf toe, and Gerry took full advantage of the opportunity, looking great in his old position. Once Cooper graduates next year, a starting spot will belong to Gerry. Until then, the coaching staff may have to get creative or reduce Alexander's playing time to get Gerry on the field.
Voting Rundown: Sean Callahan: 23 / Dan Hoppen: 37 / Robin Washut: 24 / Nate Clouse: 24 / Gregg Peterson: 24

No. 26 C Mark Pelini Analysis
Cardinal Mooney HS
Youngstown, Ohio.

Height: 6-0
Weight: 290
Year: Senior

Depth Chart Projection: Starting center

2013 Stats: Played in 13 games, starting 2

Recent Update:
Spring grade out: Offensive line

Ryne Reeves and Pelini appeared deadlocked for the starting spot at center at the beginning of spring ball, with Reeves maybe even holding the early edge. But Reeves, as he has for much of his career, struggled with injuries, allowing Pelini to assume to the lead role. While he is undersized for the position, Pelini has performed admirably when called into duty the past two seasons, which included starts against Michigan State and Penn State last year. If healthy, Reeves will give Pelini a run for his money to steal this spot. But at the moment, it looks like the coach's nephew is the favorite to start.
Voting Rundown: Sean Callahan: 25 / Dan Hoppen: 28 / Robin Washut: 29 / Nate Clouse: 21 / Gregg Peterson: 25

If you missed:

No. 31-35

No. 36-40

NEXT UP: Ranking No. 21-25

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