With the 2012 season in the books, we take a closer look at Nebraska's freshman class and newcomers and what's ahead for those players in 2013.
Avery Moss was back running during Nebraska's bowl practices in December.
Position: Defensive End
Size: 6-foot-2, 260 pounds
Hometown/Previous school: Tempe, Ariz.
247Sports ranting: 3 star, 86 overall. No. 42 defensive end
247Composite: 3 star, .8553 overall. No. 44 defensive end
Moss likely surprised a few people as a true freshman, joining Aaaon Curry as the only two true freshmen to get on the field. Moss appeared in the season-opener against Southern Miss, totaling one tackle, did not play in the UCLA game, before seeing time against Arkansas State and significant minutes against Idaho State. In those three games, Moss totaled two tackles and showed a bit of athleticism at the defensive end position. Perhaps luckily for Moss, he sustained a season-ending shoulder injury that required surgery.
Moss underwent surgery midway through the season, but because he only played in three games, was eligible for a medical redshirt season. He is listed on the Nebraska roster as a redshirt freshman. It was always going to be difficult for Moss to get on the field, particularly behind veteran players like Cameron Meredith, Eric Martin and Jason Ankrah. But still the fact that he was able to get on the field as a true freshman bodes well for his future at Nebraska. Moss is extremely athletic, in part because of his days playing basketball, and is deceptively quick for his size.
The redshirt freshman defensive end was mainly lacking in experience, having been limited in high school football because of a broken hand as a junior. The experience Moss gained as a true freshman will serve him better in 2013 as the picture at defensive end will be much more wide open.
Defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski on Moss being raw: “I thought 'this guy is going to make me a pretty good coach someday.' He was a skinny kid and looked kind of raw. Everybody kept taking about how raw he is, how raw he is, and I'm thinking, 'what does that mean?' Then he got to campus and you could see how well he moved and how much bigger he got, how much more mature he was physically with coach (James) Dobson and through fall camp, the guy gets better and better each day. You see things you can't coach. He's got things you can't coach and you try not to screw a guy like that up. You try not to over-coach him.”"
Kaczenski on Moss and his development: “Now that he specializes just in football, you can see how physically gifted he is and how much bigger he gets and how explosive he is. He's one of those guys that the bigger and stronger he gets, the quicker and faster he becomes, which is a rarity.”
Meredith and Martin have both graduated and this spring will be huge for players like Moss and fellow redshirt freshman Greg McMullen who have their eyes set on making an impact this fall.
Nebraska has a number of players going into their junior seasons, who thus far have made little impact on the field and Nebraska's defensive staff is counting on Moss and McMullen -- as well as newcomer Randy Gregory -- to come in and fill the void left by the graduating seniors. What does Nebraska need? For one, Nebraska's defensive ends have to be strong and athletic enough to contain the edge and play against the run in the Big Ten, but also disciplined enough to get sacks when the quarterback is hemmed in the pocket and nothing is open downfield. Players like Pierre Allen were particularly adept at that. Moss needs to show that he can be as much of a difference-maker.
At the bowl game, Kaczenski talked about how much the staff likes the quartet of Moss, McMullen, Aaron Curry and Vincent Valentine. The group comprised nearly 1/4 of Nebraska's 2012 signing class, and will need to step up and contribute early in a way that a similarly large group in the 2010 class has yet to do so. Look for Moss to make a big leap this offseason as he has a full slate of winter conditioning to train and get ready for the season. Moss was running with his teammates during the bowl game It might seem like a small thing, but those three games he played as a true freshman could be huge in his development.