Top 10 players: Nebraska Cornhuskers

Spring practices are starting to shut down around the Big Ten, and the past few weeks have served as a vital time for roster development and re-positioning. The summer months might bring more movement, but we’re using this time to identify the best players on campus at each school.

You will find no incoming freshmen or yet-to-enroll transfers on these lists, so they are subject to change in August. Next up is Nebraska.

1. QB Tommy Armstrong Jr.: He is the man. Nebraska’s most indispensable player -- it’s not close -- and likely its best leader if this offseason serves as an accurate indicator. Armstrong has started 33 games and ranks second in Nebraska history in passing yardage, completions and touchdown passes. The Cornhuskers plan to add to his load in the running game as a senior to maximize Armstrong’s impact.

2. WR Jordan Westerkamp: In a career that began with a bang, he’s done so much more in three seasons than catch the Hail Mary that beat Northwestern. Sure-handed, fundamentally solid and athletic, Westerkamp needs 53 catches and 742 receiving yards to break Kenny Bell's school records. Westerkamp is the leader of the Huskers’ best position group and Armstrong’s trusted partner, catching at least one pass in 26 consecutive games.

3. S Nate Gerry: The leader of the Nebraska secondary and a two-year starter who saw considerable action at linebacker as a true freshman in 2013, Gerry has settled nicely at his most natural position. He led the Huskers with five interceptions as a sophomore in 2013 and with four last season. He also led all tacklers with 79. A team captain, he earned third-team All-Big Ten honors from the media as a junior.

4. TE Cethan Carter: The Big Ten got a peek at Carter’s skills last season as the tight-end position came out of hibernation at Nebraska in the first season under coach Mike Riley and coordinator Danny Langsdorf. There is so much more there -- both from the tight ends in general in this scheme and from Carter, an NFL-caliber talent who caught 24 passes for 329 yards and two scores a year ago. He was named as Nebraska’s most improved player, an award for which he could legitimately contend again as a senior.

5. WR De'Mornay Pierson-El: This ranking is based primarily on his overflowing potential, illustrated in 2014 as Pierson-El led the nation with 596 punt-return yards and three touchdowns. He flashed game-breaking skills on offense, too, and Pierson-El's ready-made fit in Riley’s offense intrigued the coach. But foot and knee injuries derailed Pierson-El as a sophomore. He’s still on the mend, but should be healthy by August and ready to fill a major role offensively and on returns.

6. LB Michael Rose-Ivey: When healthy, he is perhaps the Huskers’ best combination on defense of play-making ability, leadership and experience. But since 2013, when Rose-Ivey shattered the Nebraska freshman record with 66 tackles, he has battled injuries -- a knee that knocked him out in 2014 and a groin that limited him to three starts last season. Still, Rose-Ivey was an Under Armour All-American out of high school and can play at an all-league level if the pieces are aligned.

7. OT Nick Gates: A rising sophomore, Gates carries himself like a senior. He means business at every moment on the field, attempting to instill an attitude of toughness among the offensive line from his spot at left tackle. Gates started 10 games on the right side last season, earning a spot on the ESPN.com Big Ten All-Freshman Team. Out of national powerhouse Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, he has room to grow -- and to rise high on this list.

8. P Sam Foltz: No one does his job better at Nebraska. A consensus first-team All-Big Ten pick in 2015 among a crowded field of excellent punters, Foltz ranked 22nd nationally with a 44.2 yard average despite an ankle injury that limited him for much of September. He’s an athlete, too, ready to punt in conventional fashion or rugby-style. Foltz, as a senior, will lead a strong corps of specialists in Lincoln.

9. CB Joshua Kalu: He broke into the playing rotation as a true freshman in 2014 and has continued to improve. He started every game last season, finishing with 75 tackles and a team-high 51 solos. Kalu also intercepted three passes, and he emerged as the Huskers’ best man in coverage to earn honorable-mention all-conference honors. Like the Nebraska secondary as a whole, Kalu appears poised to make a jump in 2016.

10. LB Josh Banderas: A homegrown Huskers legacy, Banderas began his career on a high note, starting four games as a true freshman in 2013. Since then, he’s seen his role shifted amid changes on defense. But Banderas emerged from the transitions last season to fit well at middle linebacker. Despite missing four of the first six games, he contributed 61 tackles. In a stable environment, a big senior season looks possible.