Ohio State signed four wide receivers rated a 4- or 5-star in the 2020 class. No other Big Ten school signed a better crop of wideouts than Nebraska, though. The Huskers signed three 4-stars. Penn State signed three as well, but the average rating of Nebraska’s signees was slightly better than the Nittany Lions. (Yes, none of that matters now, only development.)
In fact, there were 37 programs who signed at least one of the 63 wideouts last cycle who were rated a 4- or 5-star. Eight of them signed at least three; four of them belonged to the SEC (Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, and Tennessee), three to the Big Ten (Ohio State, Nebraska, and Penn State), and then there was Arizona State. (HERM!)
“When you look at that position, just being honest, when we came in as a coaching staff we only had four receivers on scholarship,” head coach Scott Frost said back on the December signing day. “We usually carry 10 or 11. That was a position just by numbers that we had to rebuild. We feel good about this class and where it’s going to take us. … I think we did a lot to upgrade that position.”
One could make the argument Nebraska signed one of the best wide receiver classes in the country.
Reason for excitement, it would seem.
Now add that class to what Nebraska got from the last recruiting cycle? Things are starting to build in Lincoln.
Only two players in the country reached 400 yards receiving, 300 yards rushing and 200 yards as a kickoff returner. One of those players was Wan’Dale Robinson, and he did it as a true freshman.
Robinson set NU records for catches (40) and yards (453) for a true freshman. He earned a Second Team Freshman All-American nod and was a Paul Hornung finalist. He ran the ball 88 times for 340 yards.
Robinson is the exact kind of versatile, flexible wideout that has been tearing up the Big Ten in recent years.
Let’s take a closer look at his 2019 production.
Where Wan’Dale’s Yardage Came From
The most popular call for Robinson was the screen. He got 26 targets on screen passes, caught 19 balls and turned those side-to-side throws into 183 yards.
|Hitch & Go||1||0||0||0||0|
Get the ball to him and get it to him quick. Not a lot of long-developing plays in that bunch (not that Nebraska had the time for those anyway). Robinson was, however, the most productive of any receiver to run a wheel route last season. So there’s that.
He just didn’t go down the sidelines often.
Forty of Robinson’s targets, and 24 of his 40 receptions, came from the between the hashes.
What will be interesting to see is how the presence of some bigger-bodied receivers—i.e., Omar Manning and Zavier Betts—might open things up downfield more, and whether or not that changes where Robinson goes.
He’s expected to work much more extensively at wideout this upcoming season rather than coming out of the backfield. The screen game will still be a big part of Nebraska’s offense, but if NU is able to have a vertical stretch element to its passing game, does that further diversify Robinson’s route tree?
And what role does new wideout coach Matt Lubick’s teaching play in all that?
“How can we use the new tools at our disposal to attack defenses with our star players in different ways?”
Not a bad question to be faced with.
*The data in the various tables comes from SIS DataHub.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.