After yesterday's review of those we might expect to see get first-team minutes this season, today's Part Two focuses on those that will get plenty of minutes in the U21 ranks but might be a bit further away from time in the senior squad.
Significant Contributors to U21s/Unlikely to Enter Senior Squad Picture
Marc Pelosi (Turned 19 in June): Had he not been injured in grotesque fashion during a February match, the versatile American would be awfully close to the top of yesterday's list. According to U21 manager Alex Inglethorpe, Pelosi was entering the senior squad picture with a number of excellent performances in a variety of positions for the U21s. The left-footed Pelosi was deployed at left-wing, central midfield, and left-back throughout the campaign, and impressed with his ability to pass and shoot with both feet, control possession with neat passing, and break up opposition play, effectively utilizing his combination of size (6'0") and speed. Pelosi was one of the standouts of the first half of the season, highlighted by his two goal performance against a Manchester City side featuring Gareth Barry, Scott Sinclair, and Denis Suárez. If he can make a full recovery from his broken leg, he should be a regular for Inglethorpe's side.
Stephen Sama (Turned 20 in March): The Cameroon-born German central defender signed from Borussia Dortmund in 2009 and was the U21's appearance leader last season. Despite a propensity for collecting red cards and slipping at critical moments, Sama showed enough promise to earn a call-up to the bench last season. A strong center back with a sharp eye for passing, many have high hopes that Sama can be among the next wave of young defenders utilized by Brendan Rodgers. I'd expect him to again lead the U21s in appearances in the upcoming season.
Lloyd Jones (Turns 18 in October): The youngest player on this list, the Wales youth international center back was rewarded for his breakthrough season in the reserves, first with a place on the bench during Liverpool's win at Fulham, and then with a professional contract last week. The 6'3" defender has risen meteorically through the system since signing from Plymouth Argyle in 2011, but I think he's unlikely to factor into Rodgers' plans in any major way this season. Strong in the tackle and comfortable bringing the ball up, Jones' profile is one that should fit into the long-term future of the club. He's an immense prospect who should get plenty of opportunities to shine this year.
Brad Smith (Turned 19 in April): The Australian-born left-back was mentioned alongside Pelosi by Inglethorpe as being part of the next wave of youth players being considered by Brendan Rodgers for the first team, but his season was similarly derailed by serious injury around the start of the calendar year. Smith had a blistering run of form over the fall and winter, displaying perhaps the best combination of attacking threat and defensive awareness of any fullback at the club. Another season contributing significantly to the U21 picture should see Smith firmly placed in the first-team fullback discussion. I don't want to jinx anything, but it bears considering that McLaughlin and Smith may be the reasons we haven't looked to sign a full-back.
Danny Ward (Turned 20 in June): Ward was the most frequent starter in goal for the U21s last season aside from the recently departed Péter Gulácsi, and the Welshman impressed with his shot-stopping ability in 13 appearances between league and the NextGen Series. Like many young goalkeepers, Ward must improve his command of the area and ability to handle balls played in the air, but with one of either Pepe Reina or Brad Jones presumably on the way out, Ward is next in line to be 3rd choice GK, and has been training with the first team this summer.
Next week we'll recap the U18s' 2012/2013 season, and profile a handful of players expected to be an important part of manager Steve Cooper's setup as we continue to get ready for the upcoming campaign.