As the dog days of summer continue, HuskerOnline.com is introducing a new series breaking down Nebraska's top-15 players on the roster heading into 2011.
In today's installment of "Key Huskers," we take a look at cornerback Ciante Evans and where he stands entering the start of fall camp.
It's rare when a true freshman is thrown into the fire of a Bo Pelini defense the way cornerback Ciante Evans was last season. After starter Alfonzo Dennard went down with an injury against Missouri, Evans filled in nicely in his collegiate debut, making four tackles with two impressive pass breakups.
While he eventually relinquished the spot back to Dennard, the fact that Evans showed he could hang at the D-I level just months out of high school was a testament to how quickly he was able to learn Pelini's defense and develop as a cornerback in the system. With a full year under his belt, his confidence should be through the roof when he takes over as a full-time starter this season.
What he still needs to prove
For as rapidly as he made his way up the depth chart last season, the fact remains that Evans will still be a true sophomore with playing time in just eight games on his resume. At 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, Evans will also have to show he's strong and physical enough to go up against the big, aggressive receivers of the Big Ten Conference.
Not only does Evans need to show he can handle the rigors of making it through a full season physically, but also that he'll be able to deal with the ups and downs that happen for a cornerback on almost every play. Keep in mind he officially lost his starting spot after getting beat for a big pass last year against Iowa State.
Most memorable play or moment
There aren't a whole lot of plays to choose from for Evans last season, but he was still able to pull off two memorable moments in his relief effort against Missouri. With Dennard on the sideline, the Tigers were looking to take full advantage of the inexperienced Evans and stay as far away from Prince Amukamara as possible.
As much as they went right at him, though, Evans was able to stand up to the challenge. In the third quarter, Evans went full extension to break up what would have been a touchdown pass to receiver Wes Kemp in the corner of the end zone. He was shaken up after hitting the ground and had to sit out the next play, but he came back in and made yet another touchdown saving effort.
With the Tigers once again knocking on the end zone door, Evans found himself the only Husker between Tiger quarterback Blaine Gabbert and the end zone. On a 3rd-and-goal, Evans met a scrambling Gabbert at the goal line mid air and spun him around short of the score, forcing Missouri to settle for a field goal.
It turns out that the little bit of playing experience Evans got last year could be invaluable this season, as he will enter fall camp the frontrunner for the starting cornerback job opposite Dennard.
Just as opponents did with Dennard last season, Evans will undoubtedly get tested early and often each week. He'll certainly make his share of mistakes, but Evans showed last year as a freshman he has the ability to be a playmaker at the position. Now, it's all about getting him the confidence to eventually become Nebraska's next stud corner.