Nebraska vs. Purdue, 10/28/17

Nebraska's Tanner Lee (13) sets up to pass while Nick Gates blocks during the fourth quarter of Saturday's game against Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium.

FRANCIS GARDLER, Journal Star

Another underclassman is leaving Nebraska early. 

Left tackle Nick Gates announced early Tuesday morning that he is foregoing his final season of eligibility and will declare for the NFL Draft. 

"It has taken me a long time to make this decision," he wrote on Twitter. I believe Coach (Scott) Frost will take Husker nation to where we need to go! However, after talking it over with my family, friends and coaches, I have officially decided to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft. I couldn't be more excited for this next chapter in my life." 

Gates posted the message at around 1:30 a.m. 

The Las Vegas native was NU's most experienced lineman, starting 36 career games, including all 13 at left tackle in 2016 and 12 in 2017. He was an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick by both the league's coaches and media this fall. 

Gates is the second Husker player to announce he's foregoing the chance to play at NU in 2018, joining starting quarterback Tanner Lee, who made official the same decision last week. 

Gates' departure means Frost and offensive line coach Greg Austin must replace two players with starting experience. Senior David Knevel has exhausted his eligibility. 

Tackle is a premium position in the NFL, though it's unclear exactly how Gates will be viewed at the next level or at what position he best profiles. In Lincoln, though, he would have been tasked with playing under his third coaching staff in five seasons had he stayed for his senior year.

Gates was originally a four-star prospect out of Bishop Gorman High, recruited by Bo Pelini's coaching staff before taking a redshirt season in 2014. He then started 10 games as a redshirt freshman in head coach Mike Riley and offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh's first season.

He followed that by starting every game in 2016 and earning third-team All-Big Ten by the media and honorable mention by the coaches before starting every game again last fall next to junior left guard Jerald Foster. 

"My time at Nebraska has been essential to my growth, both as a football player and as a person," he wrote. "I would not be in the position I am in without those who have guided me along the way." 

When Frost last spoke with NU reporters on Dec. 20, he said he figured there would be some attrition from the current roster, but that he hadn't been on the ground in Lincoln long enough to know where exactly it will come from. It will be interesting, then, to see how much the Huskers recruiting strategy changes in the wake of Gates' announcement. 

NU has offers out to several high school and junior college offensive linemen and seemed prepared to take at least one in addition to December signee Will Farniok (Sioux Falls, South Dakota), though perhaps now they will take more than that. 

Contact the writer at pgabriel@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.

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