Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Billy Kemp Brings Explosiveness, Durability to Nebraska’s Wide Receivers Room

March 25, 2023

When the NCAA granted Billy Kemp IV an extra year of eligibility, he jumped at the chance. The Virginia football team canceled the remainder of its season in the wake of the November 13 shooting that left three football players dead. A former walk-on was charged and has since appeared in court for multiple charges, including three counts of second-degree murder. The collective college football community wept in empathy. As a result, the NCAA ruled Virginia players exhausting their eligibility in 2022 could transfer and maintain a final year.

Injuries hampered Kemp’s production before last season’s abrupt end. At the time of the tragedy and canceled games that followed, he stood fourth on the program’s all-time receptions mark. He caught 35, 67 and 74 passes, respectively, in the three seasons preceding 2022. Kemp originally declared for the NFL Draft and then entered the portal when the NCAA granted him the extra year of eligibility. He committed to Nebraska on January 9, just after visiting the weekend prior. His announcement included a picture of him taken during his visit while honoring the three numbers of his fallen teammates.

Kemp’s in his first week of practice at Nebraska, given a final chance. He told local media on Thursday that Lincoln’s treated him well so far and credited his teammates and coaches for making him feel welcome. He’s one of several new faces in the program. Coaches welcomed them all under the same umbrella because it’s new for them too.

“Everybody’s new here, coming off a new staff,” Kemp said. “My teammates have been real welcoming. It’s been great working with them. It’s nothing too new, just learning the offense with the coaches and learning everything.”

Marcus Satterfield’s system is different than that of Desmond Kitchings or Robert Anae, the two coordinators Kemp worked under at Virginia. Satterfiled complimented Kemp not only for his veteran instincts but for his toughness. Kemp is 5-foot-9 but showed a willingness to initiate contact at Virginia. Nebraska’s offensive coordinator also noted the competitiveness and intelligence he’s seen out of Kemp so far.

“He’s really tough and, knock on wood, he’s really durable,” Satterfield said. “He can do anything. While he is small in stature, he can play inside, he can play outside. He can go in the backfield, do things out of the backfield at time.

“He showed at his time in Virginia and he showed in his short amount of time here that he can do a bunch of different things in this offense.”

Kemp summarized it slightly differently.

“I feel like I’m an explosive player that catches everything,” Kemp said. “So I’d like to add that to the offense.”

So he brings that to a crowded receivers room. Josh Fleeks and Marcus Washington helped Kemp get acclimated. There’s also Garcia-Castaneda, Zavier Betts and a slew of names that haven’t broken through yet. Kemp said receivers coach Garret McGuire has already shown his intelligence and open arms to each receiver. The new position coach is also adamant about getting each receiver through drills with high energy and an attention to detail.

It’s a competitive team. They took to the winter workout competition well and are already attacking the spring season. Part of the energy and drive comes from setting a new standard and culture Rhule hopes to instill. He also sees competition in the quarterback room. Kemp complimented how Sims looks in practice while adding all the quarterbacks seem to be learning the offense. While they all compete for snaps, the work invested is already melding the team together.

“We use hard work as a connector,” Kemp said. “Doing hard things and feeling at them ultimately builds confidence so doing that and attacking every drill that we have has been something I’ve enjoyed attacking with my teammates so far.”

Kemp simply said he’ll play anywhere on offense and special teams to help the team. Head coach Matt Rhule complimented Kemp’s special teams prowess earlier in the winter. Kemp’s worked on returning alongside elusive players like Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda, Elliott Brown and Tommi Hill. That’s clearly a point of emphasis as the team gets started in the spring and coaches make returners catch balls from the Juggs machine outdoors to battle the elements.

Kemp’s name is already in the Virginia record books but he finishes his college career in Nebraska. He chose to play for Rhule and his new coaching staff at a place rich in tradition. Rhule’s told them all the new standard is up to the players to enforce.

“And I think that’s a great way to have the leaders of the team step up and that’s, ultimately, what a team needs is for the team to ultimately run the team,” he said. “(We’re) getting 1% better every day. Finding one thing to focus on and get better at that coming into every day.”

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