Nebraska is coming off a season without a bowl appearance for the 5th year in a row as an important offseason continues on. Scott Frost appeared to be the home run hire to make this program a consistent contender in the B1G West, but that hasn’t quite happened as he heads into Year 5. This is probably a make-or-break season for his future with the program, and here are 5 candidates who could develop into the face of the program.

Casey Thompson

Adrian Martinez was the starting quarterback in every season of the Frost era, but Nebraska will have a new guy under center this fall. Martinez transferred to Kansas State, and the Cornhuskers hit the transfer portal pretty hard for his replacement. The most experienced incoming QB is Casey Thompson, who played in 19 games at Texas including 10 starts, completing 63.8% of throws for 2,422 yards with 30 touchdowns.

Thompson took over for Hudson Card early in the 2021 season and started the final 10 games, and he completed 63.2% of his passes for 2,113 yards with 24 touchdowns and 9 interceptions as the Longhorns went 4-6 with him as the starter. He has 2 years of eligibility remaining and is the favorite to land the starting QB job.

Chubba Purdy

Chubba Purdy is another quarterback the Cornhuskers landed during the offseason, from Florida State, and he should be in the mix for the starting spot too. He spent the last 2 seasons with the Seminoles as a highly rated recruit but battled through injuries and played in just 4 games, with 1 start as a true freshman in 2020. In limited experience, he completed 32 of 58 passes (55.2%) for 317 yards with 4 touchdowns and 1 interception.

Like Thompson, Purdy is a dual threat, which was a staple of the Adrian Martinez experience. He has 4 years of eligibility left.

Omar Manning

Omar Manning has been all over the place in college, including stints at TCU and junior college, but the Nebraska wide receiver has a chance at a real breakout season in 2022. Heading into his 6th college season and his third with the Cornhuskers, Manning played in 11 games last year with 7 starts and caught 26 passes for 380 yards with 2 touchdowns.

Manning has the size to be an NFL prospect and could use his size and athleticism in game-breaking ways to be the face of the Nebraska program this fall. If Manning stays healthy and plays to his potential, that will be huge for what Nebraska’s offense can be in 2022.

Luke Reimer

Nebraska will lose a ton of production from last season’s defense, but the Cornhuskers will bring back their two leading tacklers with inside linebackers Luke Reimer and Nick Henrich. Reimer finished No. 1 in that statistic with 108 total tackles and put up impressive statistics in a number of categories. In addition to leading the team in tackles, he had 6 tackles for loss with a sack. Reimer forced a team-high 3 fumbles with 3 QB hurries, 6 pass breakups and an interception.

Reimer arrived on campus as a walk-on and worked his way up the depth chart quickly to becoming the first Nebraska player to record at least 100 tackles since 2018. The inside linebacker group is the best part of the Cornhuskers defense looking ahead to the fall.

Garrett Nelson

Garrett Nelson and Caleb Tannor combine to form a solid duo on the edge for the 2022 season, and Nelson is especially strong coming off a fantastic year as a disruptor in opponents’ backfields. He finished with team-highs of 11.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks. Nelson also forced a fumble and had 4 quarterback hurries and 2 pass breakups. He is a true leader of the team and if those numbers continue or increase, he could develop into the face of the program this fall.

Nelson already carved out a name for himself on the Nebraska defense heading into his third season as a starter. He’s been incredibly reliable and durable with 20 consecutive starts, and getting to the quarterback on a consistent basis would make up for whatever holes may exist on a defense that needs to replace a lot of talent.