Spring Stock Watch: Five players who need strong spring finishes

Robin Washut, Senior Writer
Husker Online

Nebraska is set to get the second half of spring ball underway next week, and there are a handful of players who need to make the most of the five remaining practices leading up to the Spring Game.

Here are five Huskers who need strong finishes this spring...

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Nate Clouse

Alex Davis, So., Linebacker

One of the most intriguing position changes that came with Nebraska's transition to Bob Diaco's 3-4 scheme was the move of Alex Davis from defensive end to outside linebacker.

An impressive athlete with great size, the sophomore seemed to be a perfect fit for the rush end/linebacker hybrid role that has thrived in Diaco's defenses over the years.

But along with the move has come a completely new list of assignments and responsibilities from what Davis was used to previously as a full-time defensive end.

How quickly he picks up all the aspects of the new role will ultimately decide how long it takes Davis to reach his full potential.

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Nate Clouse

Nick Gates, Jr., Tackle

It seems somewhat strange to have arguably the most established member of Nebraska's offensive line on this list, but Nick Gates is in a bit of an interesting spot at this point in the offseason.

After fighting through an ankle injury for the second half of last season, Gates ended the year with a forgettable performance in the bowl game. In fact, he had one of the worst outings of his Husker career as he struggled to slow down Tennessee's star defensive end, Derek Barnett.

There's no question that game took a toll on Gates mentally, and it may have had a pretty big effect on his confidence.

For such a key piece at an already thin tackle position, Nebraska is desperately hoping Gates can put the end of last year behind him and get the swagger back that made him a Big Ten All-Freshman selection in 2015.

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Nate Clouse

David Knevel, Sr., Tackle

As if having one starting tackle in this group wasn't enough, David Knevel is facing an equally important offseason on the right side of the offensive line.

From a physical standpoint, there's not a player on the line who looks more the part than the 6-foot-9, 315-pound senior.

However, Knevel's biggest issues have been staying healthy and also playing up to his impressive stature.

Both of those struggles led to him losing his starting job to Cole Conrad last season, and while Knevel was listed as the No. 1 right tackle entering the spring, that competition is as close as ever.

This spring and fall camp might be Knevel's last chance to be the type of bookend tackle many have hoped he'd become for the past three years.

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Tyler Krecklow

Devine Ozigbo, Jr., Running Back

Devine Ozigbo was projected by many as the frontrunner to lock up the starting running back job heading into the start of spring ball, but that's looked less and less like the case over the first two weeks of practices.

Whether it's because he's playing through an injury (his coaches haven't hinted at anything being wrong with him) or just other running backs playing better, Ozigbo's reps have been fewer each time out.

His size makes him a unique piece in Nebraska's backfield, so he's poised to factor in to the offense in some capacity.

However, Ozigbo needs to pick things up in practice if he's going to have any chance at securing the starting role.

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Nate Clouse

Kieron Williams, Sr., Safety

Kieron Williams broke on to the scene by emerging as one of Nebraska's top defensive playmakers last season, leading the team with five interceptions and ranking fourth with 69 total tackles.

However, the competition the Huskers have at safety right now has made it unclear whether Williams is a shoo-in to have a similar role in the secondary this season.

Not only was Williams already slotted as the No. 2 free safety behind Aaron Williams going into the spring, the position got even more crowded when NU decided to give cornerback Joshua Kalu a try at safety.

Add in the emergence of young guys like Antonio Reed, JoJo Domann and others, Williams needs to once again earn his spot in the rotation going into his senior season.

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