Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, January 27, 2015

New coach Mike Riley walked into a decent situation in Lincoln. The cupboard isn?t barren at a place where departed Bo Pelini won at least nine games in each of his seven seasons.

[ MORE: Nebraska team homepage | 2014 Nebraska stats | 2014 Nebraska schedule ]

Among the key personnel back are quarterback Tommy Armstrong, wideouts Jordan Westerkamp and DeMornay Pierson-El, tight end Cethan Carter and tackle Alex Lewis on offense. The defense will welcome back corner Daniel Davie, safety Nathan Gerry, punter Sam Foltz, linebackers David Santos and Josh Banderas and tackles Vincent Valentine and Maliek Collins.

But the new staff must replace some key cogs, including guard Jake Cotton and corner Josh Mitchell.

[ MORE: View all of Tom Dienhart's players to replace in 2015 posts ]

Here are the Top Five Cornhuskers to replace.

RB Ameer Abdullah. He leaves Lincoln as an all-time great. He put together his third straight 1,000-yard rushing season in 2014, a first in the history of Nebraska program. Abdullah finished 2014 with 1,611 rushing yards, which ranks sixth on the Nebraska single-season list, and he finished his career second all-time at NU with 4,588 career rushing yards. He was a consensus second-team All-Big Ten choice.

LB Zaire Anderson. He led the team in tackles with 103, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. Anderson showed his play-making skills in 2014, leading the team in fumbles caused (3) and fumble recoveries (2), while ranking second in tackles for loss (13). He added five pass breakups and a pair of sacks.

WR Kenny Bell. ?Afro Thunder? completed the most productive receiving career in Nebraska history. He ascended to the top of the school?s career charts for receptions (181) and receiving yards (2,689) in 2014. As a senior, Bell led Nebraska with 47 receptions for a team-high 788 yards and was first-team All-Big Ten by the coaches.

S Corey Cooper. He was third on the team with 73 tackles, including 46 solo stops. A captain and leader, Cooper notched honorable-mention all-conference accolades from both the league?s coaches and media.

DE Randy Gregory. Despite missing significant time, Gregory finished with 54 tackles and  team-high seven sacks. Gregory was third on the team with 10 tackles for loss and led the Huskers with 16 quarterback hurries. He was a consensus All-Big Ten pick who declared for the NFL draft.

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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